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    Wednesday, May 17, 2017

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/15/17): Extremely Annoying

    Hey, did you know that in three weeks, RAW will be hosting another brand-exclusive pay-per-view called Extreme Rules?

    Did you know that it'll be the one time in the year that the WWE RAW goes extreme?

    Did you know that Braun Strowman is out for six months and that it's because of Roman Reigns?

    RAW was guilty of beating us over the head with a lot of these points throughout this week's episode. Yes, it was annoying, but in a way, it also helped because it set the table for Extreme Rules without making it necessary to rush storytelling on the week right before the PPV.

    Let's start with the Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules match to determine the #1 Contender to the Universal Championship. On paper, it's a great main event because you have main event players all competing for a shot at Brock Lesnar, which immediately makes all of their upcoming interactions have title implications. It's also a great way to keep Roman Reigns busy while Strowman's out, while advancing whatever story they hoped to build with Finn Bálor and Bray Wyatt—but completely forgot about this week—and whatever they're trying to prolong with Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins. Hell, my only gripe is how Kurt Angle talked about championship opportunities being earned, not given, and then he just names five potential #1 Contenders without explaining why they deserve it.

    For all of my complaints about Dean Ambrose and the Miz being put through a rehash of their feud on SmackDown Live from a few months ago, RAW actually refreshed it by having Ambrose and his hotheaded nature get outsmarted by Miz in a way that totally benefited neither guy. I loved that Ambrose's temper got the best of him and yet, Miz didn't get what he wanted either. That was a logical way to push the story forward and the stipulation for their Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules should make the bout compelling. I don't even mind that it's pretty much recycling the Randy Orton vs. Christian story from six years ago.

    Where I have an issue with is how the women figure into Extreme Rules. Outside of Alexa Bliss, every other woman on the RAW roster hasn't looked great at all and that's problematic. Relying on a stipulation like a Kendo Pole on a Stick Match isn't automatically going to make Bayley a character worth investing in. It's bad enough that RAW has ruined whatever momentum Bayley supposedly had from her NXT run. It's even worse that she's been reduced to a little girl trapped in a young woman's body. Kurt Angle pretty much had to make sure she was willing to have that stipulation in her title rematch, as if he was her daddy looking out for her well-being! It really didn't help that they tried to squeeze in both Alexa bullying Bayley with a kendo stick and the Kurt/Bayley backstage segment in just one episode when they could've drawn that out across a couple of weeks.

    The bright side is that RAW is using their time wisely to actually build stories up. We're a good three weeks away from Extreme Rules, which means there's enough time to flesh out certain characters and storylines, as long as RAW is willing to do so. And if you're looking for just good wrestling matches, we actually got them this week, too. Yeah, Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt lacked the proper build-up for a match that was taking place for the first time ever, and the Cruiserweight tag team match was a dance we've seen one too many times. But it's better than five-minute matches that barely get any time to tell a story, right?

    This week's episode was a reminder of how easy it is to go back to the same uninspired patterns that make RAW such a slog. However, the pacing for most of the stories should give you a bit of hope that the Red Brand won't be cramming matches too much on the go-home shows. C+.

    Quick Hitters

    • That Goldust heel turn felt so mema. It had no heat and you could hear it from the crowd. That's because prior to last week, we didn't really care about the Golden Truth. Even though they've been tagging "for a long time," as Michael Cole said during the beatdown, it didn't feel that way because they were barely on TV. And even when they were, we had little to no reason to care about them. What a waste of a segment. Goldust didn't even need to turn heel because it's easier to cheer for a plucky veteran like him.

    • Speaking of heels, Roman Reigns was pretty much a heel this week. From the way he basically demanded that he be named #1 Contender instead of going through the Fatal 5-Way to how he handled Finn in the ring, Roman was acting like a heel. The only thing that kept him from fully realizing that heel turn was the commentary team insisting on characterizing him as a hero. More stubbornness. Wonderful!
    • At least they were consistent with Bray Wyatt. He'd get into a temporary alliance in a post-match beatdown of his opponent, and then completely betray said temporary ally with a Sister Abigail from out of nowhere. Even though they've dropped the ball on Wyatt so many times, at least they've kept this wrinkle of his character interesting moving forward, especially now that he's without a Family.
    • I don't know why Alicia Fox got the clean win over Sasha Banks this week. There was no bigger story and it's not like Foxy acted all indignant that last week's match really cost her or anything.
    • Titus O'Neil should just go full LaVar Ball to maximize his character. That said, I can totally imagine Lonzo Ball acting the way Apollo Crews did this week. I'm also confused about Apollo. Did he turn heel when he hit Enzo Amore with that enzuigiri? Either way, that moment felt satisfying because Enzo's not even endearing anymore.
    • Remember when Seth Rollins came back from injury last year, got booked like a heel again, and then got a super babyface WWE 24? They're finally doing it right by going through the whole process with a babyface Bálor. Man, they really did Seth dirty.
    • The finish of that Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus match looked messy. I understand that it was live TV and that mistakes do happen, however, I can't help but feel confused with what went down. It was weird seeing Jeff win clean without any post-match scuffles, though. You'd think Sheasaro would lose their cool right then and there again.

    • Elias Samson is easily the most hilarious part of RAW and he's slowly becoming my favorite part of the show. I cannot believe I just typed that last sentence.

    Photos from WWE


    Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast and The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. He dresses up in fancy suits from time to time to book matches as PWR's General Manager.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/15/17): Extremely Annoying Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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