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    Wednesday, July 18, 2018

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (7/17/18): Universal Ultimatum

    Relationships are a weird thing. Despite Roman Reigns' well-known catchphrase of "One Versus All," people do actually need friends. If Seth Rollins' feud with WWE Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler (with Drew McIntyre brooding close by) teaches us anything, it's that everyone could do with a back-up or two. Friends, even family, will always have your back—okay, maybe not always. But for some of us, socializing can be quite exhausting, which means that we often need to distance ourselves from others, friends and family, to rejuvenate and replenish our own energy. 

    If Kurt Angle really wanted to help Bayley and Sasha Banks repair their damaged relationship, then he should have probably taken that last part into account. Then again, this is the same guy who forced Rollins and Dean Ambrose to reunite just so he could fulfill his fantasy of joining The Shield. Sick. You're a sick man, Kurt. 

    Bayley attacking Banks at ringside must've felt for Banks the same as it did for Ambrose when Rollins attacked him and Reigns, effectively ending The Shield. Like what Smark Henry Editor at Large Stan Sy tweeted about this storyline, Angle is presenting himself as an abusive boss that really needs to approach this whole thing outside of his bubble. He wants to fix a relationship that he isn't even a part of by threatening to trade one of Bayley and Banks—as valuable as they're supposed to be—to SmackDown if they don't get along? That just doesn't sound right.

    It's a miracle that Banks was even talking to Bayley in a civilized manner backstage, considering that she never did get the opportunity to address that attack in an emotionally mature way. Banks was thrown into counselling without her consent, forced to share a room with an attacker that used to be her friend, and everyone expected her to get over it just like that? Has Bayley even apologized to Banks for losing her shit and trying to put her on the shelf? The way things de-escalated doesn't help. You don't fix abusive relationships with just two weeks of counselling, Kurt. But maybe that is the point. Maybe, by some miracle, the payoff of this storyline is that both of them finally explode against each other and go on a three-PPV streak of amazing main event matches? One can only hope.

    But for tonight, we got Bayley and Banks forced in another tag team match against their wishes versus Titus Worldwide's Dana Brooke and a returning Alicia Fox. Kurt might be the one who needs counselling on how to handle private relationships in the workplace.

    Speaking of relationships, WWE RAW Women's Champion Alexa Bliss came out with bestie Mickie James to cut a promo about her so-called dominance. This was expected, considering that she did technically manage to come out on top at Extreme Rules not only against her challenger Nia Jax, but also against the outside involvement of Natalya and a suspended Ronda Rousey, who bought herself a ticket to the show. Bliss' victory was technically all thanks to James, but whatever. The important thing is that Bliss is still champion. Such bliss! The entire segment was pretty entertaining, to say the least. It not only continued to remind everyone how good of a heel Bliss really is, but also addressed the fact that Rousey did violate her suspension, purchased ticket and all. Rousey put her hands on Bliss and James, something a fan at ringside—especially a suspended coworker—is never allowed to do.

    It's great to see Constable Baron Corbin be the voice of reason in this one, especially since logic favors the heels more than the badass babyface, which made me really concerned about the well-being of both Bliss and James. The way the heels were running away from Rousey was hilarious, but at the same time believable. Bliss might be full of herself to an extent; but she is not that deluded. Rousey is very, very dangerous, and this encounter showed everyone how better suited Rousey is in playing the Stone Cold Steve Austin babyface than The Rock babyface. Just let her beat people up. There's no need for Rousey to get exposed on the mic.

    What else did this segment show? That Kurt Angle may not actually be suited to his current role. We've already established that he's not great at handling a certain relationship involving former(?) BFFs. He's actually making that toxic relationship worse. This segment further proves that he's also terrible at putting bias and friendship aside. Corbin was right in pointing out that Rousey's actions at Extreme Rules deserve more than a one-week extension of her current suspension. But what does Kurt make of that truth? He rewards bad behavior by giving Rousey a measly slap on the wrist plus a title match at SummerSlam with some cockamamie catch of keeping her hands to herself before then. She's suspended, Kurt. She's not even supposed to be on tonight's show! Stephanie will hear about this!

    Too bad Corbin left his phone back in the office, though. Now we'll never know if Stephanie McMahon would actually extend Rousey's suspension until SummerSlam itself. Probably not. Business is business after all.

    What may not be good business, though, is when your WWE Universal Champion barely appears in your shows but ends up appearing at UFC 226 to challenge UFC Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier. At Extreme Rules, Angle responded to this blatant show of disrespect by dropping a massive bomb: Lesnar better show up to work soon or he'll get stripped of the WWE Universal Championship. Strip him, Kurt!

    Because that was pretty much the most extreme thing at Extreme Rules, aside from what happened during the Braun Strowman/Kevin Owens Steel Cage match, Angle had to open the show with the ultimatum. At first, I thought this was WWE's way to legit strip Lesnar of the title, considering that the UFC appearance might have ruffled some feathers backstage. But when Paul Heyman arrived, I was torn in two, mostly because I love hearing Heyman cut a promo but on the other hand, his appearance meant that Lesnar might not get stripped of the title after all. Let's just get one thing straight: I don't have anything against Lesnar as Universal Champion. It's just that it's a little boring now, what with his rare appearances and so many more deserving wrestlers on RAW forced to compete in random matches because the main title is never up for grabs anymore. Bragging rights? Really?

    But things got way interesting when everyone started pouring out from the back. From Finn Bálor to Drew McIntyre, to Seth Rollins, to (of course) Roman Reigns, all six men that ended up in that ring, except maybe for Elias, were all worthy contenders for the Universal Championship. So what did Angle do? Angle scheduled two awesome Triple Threat matches that pretty much resulted in a scheduled repeat of the murder of an Extreme Rules match just 24 hours ago.

    Reigns versus Bálor versus McIntyre was a really good match, highlighting how massive of a superstar Bálor could be, if he isn't already, and why McIntyre just works in the world title picture. The outcome wasn't what most of us wanted, but I guess it was sort of expected? It was a good decision to protect McIntyre at this point because Bálor's continued failures could lead to a good storyline along the way, while McIntyre can't really afford to lose clean this early. Elias versus Rollins versus Lashley wasn't that bad of a match either, with Rollins continuously proving why RAW is Rollins. But the results of these two matches just feel like they effectively negated that Lashley versus Reigns match at Extreme Rules.

    Why?! Why would they do this? Why would you do this, Kurt? Why "treat" us to another Reigns versus Lashley match? Don't get me wrong, their Extreme Rules match was pretty good, even if bragging rights isn't actually a good enough reason to start a massive brawl on RAW's go-home show for the PPV, but Lashley already beat Reigns and proved that he is the one between the two of them that deserves to face Lesnar. Unless you want to keep punishing Reigns, then I guess that works, but then again, why?

    Reigns shouldn't have been included in one of the Triple Threat matches in the first place. Everyone else had great arguments for why they should face Lesnar at SummerSlam. Even Elias dropping an album could somewhat translate to a money match or something. But Reigns' entire schtick for coming out during the opening segment was that he wanted to fight someone tonight? Chad Gable wasn't doing anything tonight. Curt Hawkins, too. Heath Slater and Rhyno, even Mike Kanellis, No Way Jose, Zack Ryder... Kurt could've booked Reigns against any of those guys if The Big Dog just wanted a fight. Instead, we got Reigns forced down our throats for the nth time. Kurt even acknowledged that Corbin didn't deserve to be included in any of the matches because he lost to Bálor at Extreme Rules. Was Kurt on his phone, texting his son Jason Jordan memes, when Reigns lost to Lashley on the same PPV? That's just bad GM-ing, Kurt.

    I'll give this week's RAW a C for "Counselling actually works," guys, but not in just two weeks.

    Quick Hitters:

    • Braun Strowman is still a free man, despite once again attempting to murder my best friend in the whole wide world, Kevin Owens. Get well, buddy, and for shame, WWE Human Resources Department! Also, if Strowman is a monster that doesn't care about wins or losses, then why didn't he just enter one of the two Triple Threats tonight—maybe even both—to murder everyone in there for kicks and giggles? Because he has his Money in the Bank briefcase? That briefcase just eliminates any need for him to qualify for a title shot but that doesn't eliminate the fact that he has a psychotic blood lust. RIP Owens' Twitter account.
    • Remember how dominant The Ascension was on NXT? Well, this week, they were squashed by newly crowned RAW Tag Team Champions Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, The B-Team. The Revival watched this match backstage because apparently they wanted to scout the champs in action against a tag team that hasn't been a threat since... ever? It was a great way to remind us they're still alive, though. I actually thought I'd have wanted to see them attack both The B-Team and The Ascension during the match because "no flips, just fists" but then I realized The Revival wouldn't have given a damn at this point. At least not yet. There's still that tag team title rematch next week, and the "top guys" probably want to see what happens there. Will the current champs lose and cement their reign as The B-Reign? Or will the former champs lose and cement their respective places in the mid-card? Who knows?  
    • The in-ring argument between "The Glorious One" Bobby Roode and WWE Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler was brilliant, as it put into the limelight the harsh realities of Roode's placement on the RAW totem pole and Ziggler needing McIntyre to rejuvenate his career. Roode's encounter with Mojo Rawley backstage piqued my interest, too. Are these two going to feud? Or is Roode finally turning heel after realizing Rawley did have a point? 
    • Speaking of Rawley, Mojo continued his push this week, and if that backstage segment with Roode was a peek into how good he could truly be, then I'm all for it. I might be the only one who liked the Hype Bro gimmick, though. It was fun, but it was also annoying, which I thought was the point. What wasn't fun was seeing Tyler Breeze get massacred in that ring. With Fandango recuperating from a successful shoulder surgery, some of us might've hoped this could be the start of the singles opportunity Breeze deserved. Nope. It was not meant to be. At least, and maybe sadly, not yet. But we did see Breeze wrestle, which wasn't a terrible consolation prize. That man knows how to sell!
    • This week's match on repeat is... The Authors of Pain destroying Titus Worldwide. Oh, Titus Worldwide! When will you ever learn?   
    • I don't know about you, but the Riott Squad's backstage segments are sort of fun. It's always something new each week, and this time, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan had a bit of an encounter with No Way Jose's conga line. Oh, and afterwards, Logan beat Ember Moon thanks to a distraction from Liv. Should we still be calling them Riott Squad with Ruby Riott on the mend? What about Liv 'n la vida Logan? No? All right.
    Images from WWE


    Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoe) is just some guy on the Internet who writes a bunch of unrelated stuff a world-traveled veteran of the word game. After barreling through his favorite professional wrestling shows, namely NXT, Lucha Underground, WWE, NJPW, Ring of Honor, and (gasp) even Impact Wrestling, he joined Smark Henry to unleash his strange squared circle philosophy on his fellow professional wrestling fans. His path of obsession continues to grow with every RAW he reviews, and his love for Drew McIntyre (RIP Kevin Owens) promises that he’s not going to stop anytime soon. Unless he gets fired of course.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (7/17/18): Universal Ultimatum Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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