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    Thursday, May 4, 2017

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/1/17): Seeing Blue

    Alright, this week's RAW review column is pretty late, and I apologize for that. Not that I'm making excuses to absolve myself for it, but as a creature of habit, it really throws me off when things get scheduled in the middle of my TV-viewing routine. Anyway, since it's late and a little over two days have passed since RAW has ended, I'm going to do my best to make this a more manageable review column for both you and me.

    Let's start with how RAW took a page out of SmackDown Live's playbook this week in terms of keeping the show tight and logical. I'm pretty sure I've used those two words to describe an episode of RAW in the past, but I also know that it just doesn't happen often enough. Now, I'm not saying RAW was completely on SmackDown's level this week. It wasn't, but this week felt like watching Jaylen Brown play as a rookie for the Celtics this year. The mistakes are there, but you see the flashes of greatness that you'd expect out of a top-3 pick (Brown) or a flagship show (RAW).

    This week's main event was definitely must-see, for one. There were concrete stakes at hand and we got a great match out of it. Hell, all of Dean Ambrose's backstage interview segments added so much entertainment value that I didn't mind him being overexposed. That said, I didn't think the clusterfuck at the end was necessary, but it allowed Miz to win with heel heat, while not making Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor look too weak in the loss. Plus, it also forwarded the Seth/Joe rivalry, while kickstarting the Bálor/Wyatt feud.

    The only real gripe I had with the entire story was the fact that Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship are missing until Great Balls of Fire, so RAW GM Kurt Angle had to distract Rollins and Bálor with another shiny toy in the Intercontinental Championship. While it's nice that two top-tier stars were chasing after the midcard title for one episode, the championship ended up looking more like a consolation prize because Seth and Finn really want the Universal Championship at the end of the day.

    Alexa Bliss is our new RAW Women's Champion and I could not be any happier for Little Miss Bliss. What I'm not too happy about is that we got a lazily-booked 8-woman tag team match, where the babyfaces teamed together because they were babyfaces and the heels were a team because they're heels. Come on, guys. We're no longer in the era of Teddy Long. RAW can do so much better than this.

    But wait, you ask. We saw the same thing brewing on SmackDown this week. The only difference is the SmackDown women's division story has been building up since WrestleMania. It makes sense that the heel women on the Blue Brand are going after Charlotte, and by extension, Naomi and Becky Lynch. To borrow a line from Survivor: Game Changers' Debbie Wanner, a line is being drawn in concrete over there. What we got on RAW was a lazy way to cram all the women's storylines in one match.

    Switching gears, let's move on to Cesaro and Sheamus, whose heel turn was explained so well that I came out of their promo feeling very satisfied about their character development. They complained about the fans being balimbing and rooting for them heading into WrestleMania, but immediately jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon as soon as the Hardy Boyz showed up at the last second. And then, to add more texture to their heel turn, they talked about their individual motivations, which totally made sense.

    Sheamus said that the fans never liked him anyway, while Cesaro was never fully appreciated for his greatness. I can't say I disagree with either guy. Most importantly, they capped off the promo by saying that fans are too caught up with the past or the future that they fail to see the greatness that takes place in the present. In short, we are all Peter Quill. We don't realize that what we've been looking for has been right under our noses all this time. (Cue Yusuf Islam's "Father and Son" and all the tears.)

    That's SmackDown booking right there. Cesaro and Sheamus' heel turn was gradually drawn out, executed at just the right time, and properly explained for us to understand why these characters feel and act this way now. I can't wait to see more of the Sheasaro/Hardys rivalry, especially since both teams have some teeth (no pun intended) in this feud now.

    Overall, this week's RAW wasn't too much of a chore to get through. Yes, three hours a week is still too much time, even for a sport I love dearly. But when you manage your time well by writing stories that make sense, it becomes a little bit more bearable for a fan like me to spend time on every week. B+.

    Quick Hitters

    • I'm pretty happy that the Cruiserweights got to have two solid matches on RAW this week. Normally, they get such rushed matches that only really serve to plug 205 Live, but not this week. Both the six-man tag and TJP/Aries were enjoyable, especially if you aren't feeling the rest of RAW, which I really can't blame you for.

    • It's interesting that Kurt Angle actually cares about win-loss records when people ask for title shots! He turned Golden Truth down because he says that their win-loss record isn't good enough. Interestingly, I saw a post from Jim Hitchell in a wrestling discussion Facebook group I'm part of, where he tallied the winning percentages of the five tag teams on RAW that aren't named the Hardys. That means you have the Club, Enzo & Cass, Sheasaro, Slater/Rhyno, and Golden Truth.
      • In matches held in 2017 in which both guys were on the same team, Mr. Hitchell found that:
        • The Club has won 27 out of 48 matches (56.25%)
        • Cesaro and Sheamus have won 16 out of 43 matches (37.21%)
        • Enzo and Cass have won 17 out of 32 matches (53.125%)
        • Slater and Rhyno have won 28 out of 40 matches (70%)
        • Golden Truth have won 31 out of 33 matches (94.94%)
      • Welp. Isn't that ironic? Angle used the win-loss record excuse on the team with the BEST WINNING PERCENTAGE THIS YEAR SO FAR.
      • I'm also pretty impressed that Mr. Hitchell had enough time and curiosity on his hands to look these stats up and to share them to the group. I love it when wrestling fans use their idle time this way. We should all take a page out of Mr. Hitchell's playbook.
    • It's been a few weeks since Booker T's been back on commentary, and at this point, he's only making Corey Graves redundant. He doesn't really add value to the show, especially since he exhibits JBL-like tendencies by cheering for generally heels, but liking some babyfaces, too. Pick a side, Booker. And I'm pretty sure you were hired to be a babyface color commentator, so please call a match like one. Corey's already a great heel color guy on his own.
    • Elias Samson being a running gag at this point is the best use of his character on TV. I love it.
    • I'm fine with both Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman being absent from RAW this week. Given the events of Payback and RAW Talk, it totally made sense. I'm actually excited for the fallout in the coming weeks.
    • Does anyone still care about the Club?

    Photo 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 (5/1/17): Seeing Blue Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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