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    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/22/17): Same Old Shh But A Different Day

    When I was doing the 4-8 p.m. slot every weekday on Mellow 94.7, I would bring my own home-cooked dinner to work in an effort to save money. I'd excitedly go to the booth's dining area at 7 p.m. and see what I'd have for dinner. Most days, I'd be too hungry to care what was inside. As long as it was edible, I'd be pretty grateful to have something to eat without having to leave the station.

    But there were days when I'd get the same ulam again and again, like when there would be a three-day stretch where I'd have rice and bistek tagalog for dinner over and over. You can get excited about something over and over, but the moment you get the same thing repeatedly, your level of satisfaction goes down. No matter how hard I tried to imagine anything different about the bistek tagalog, it was still the same bistek tagalog with onions in calamansi sauce. That's the Theory of Diminishing Returns at work.

    This is basically where I'm at with Monday Night RAW. We're getting the same old stories, match types, and tropes, even if the players are shuffled somehow. It doesn't really matter how the writers and announcers try to spin it anymore. I'm not really excited to see the same old thing just branded differently.

    Take, for example, the way RAW always opens with a segment or match that effectively sets up the main event, too. We rarely get a main event match that wasn't just a result of an earlier match that other wrestlers interfered in or a segment that caused an argument between 4-6 characters. I appreciate how SmackDown can build up a main event a week in advance because that actually gets me invested in it. Why can't RAW? It's ironic because I understand that the intention is to make the main event look like a spontaneous matchup to give it more gravitas. But the more it's run into the ground, the more it comes across as less genuine. This is why Teddy Long's penchant for booking tag matches became a meme. Did the main event tag match really raise the stakes of the Extreme Rules match? Not really. The winners didn't even get anything other than bragging rights, so what was the purpose?

    You may argue that at least we're already getting a couple of announced matches for next week's go-home show. It'll be Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe vs. Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins, and I expect both matches to be pretty solid. The thing is, even if RAW gives us solid wrestling, if they keep using the same old plot devices to get from Point A to Point B to Point C, then there's really no point in investing in the story. We aren't really getting anything new, so it's hard to appreciate the wrestling beyond what it really is. Wrestling is most fun when there are tangible stakes. We've seen the "let's see if you can get along" trope be played out for far too long. It's just too tiring.

    How about the Sheasaro/Hardyz feud? Since both teams started feuding, we've explored pretty much every permutation of singles matchups between all four guys. Yes, I understand that this week's Matt Hardy vs. Sheamus bout had stakes, but I'm sure the story could still have been advanced in a way that doesn't necessitate another singles matchup. It also doesn't help that Cesaro and Sheamus can't seem to catch a break against the Hardy Boyz when Matt and Jeff are clearly the nostalgia act at this point.

    Finally, Bray Wyatt. Every week, we get some meandering promo from Bray Wyatt that doesn't really seem to make sense in the greater scheme of things. Instead of him being a cult leader, WWE has dropped the ball on him so many times that it seems nobody really knows what he's supposed to be anymore. I've stopped caring about him, which is a shame because less than two months ago, he was the WWE Champion. It doesn't even matter that Wyatt is in the Fatal Five-Way. He doesn't even have a puncher's chance at Brock Lesnar.

    It's a shame because I will admit that RAW has been exerting effort into making certain stories meaningful. It's just not something that translates throughout the entire show. As a viewer, I feel like RAW is coasting again on the name value of its biggest stars with the hope that it'll be enough to get us through the week. It isn't. And these tired old tropes are the same old things that are getting me to think about RAW as the bistek tagalog I've grown to resent. C+.

    Quick Hitters

    • I am really loving the Titus/Apollo story right now. Titus is slowly becoming the LaVar Ball of the WWE, and I want to see where this takes Apollo Crews as a character. Does he embrace the dark side and the Titus Brand? Or does he eventually turn against Titus the way we'd want Lonzo Ball to eventually tell his father to shut up?
    • It was pretty refreshing to see Enzo Amore and Big Cass in that one backstage segment. I've stopped feeling any empathy towards their characters over the last few months because of how grating they've become on television. Seeing Big Cass as Enzo's protector humanized them and made me want to root for them again, at least for now.

    • Can we please stop trying to make this Alicia Fox and Noam Dar vs. Sasha Banks feud happen? It's so unfortunate that Fox and Dar—both pretty talented wrestlers and characters—are seen as such poor foils that whoever they get written into a storyline with has to put up with all this crap for however long they're booked together. It's also painfully obvious that this is just a stopgap feud for Sasha before she's eventually rewritten into the Women's Championship picture.
    • Elias Samson continues to make me happy. I still can't believe this is happening. I also loved how the Miz used Samson and the disqualification rules to keep messing with Dean Ambrose. That was a great way to advance their story and their "DQ" theme, while keeping Samson's heat, too.
    • Poor Tony Nese has been on the receiving end of heels taking out their frustrations. He's taken crap from Drew Gulak and The Brian Kendrick, and this week, he gets a beating from Neville. This is totally setting up a Tony Nese face turn, isn't it?

    • Paul Heyman and Finn Bálor is a combo I didn't know I needed until I saw it live on RAW.

    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 (5/22/17): Same Old Shh But A Different Day Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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