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    Wednesday, October 24, 2018

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (10/22/18): One Good Turn Deserves Another

    To say that this week's RAW was emotional would be a great understatement. If anything, this might've been one of the best, if not simply memorable, RAWs of recent memory. It all came at the expense of a very real and serious development for one wrestlerget well soon, Joe Anoa'i. And before the night was done, a slew of storyline progressions, some surprising, made it all more intriguing and flat-out mind-boggling. Thoughts and prayers go out to the Big Dog, the former WWE Universal Champion, but as Paul Heyman professed, Roman Reigns would rather have the show go on.

    This week's opener was both expected and unexpected. For most of this year, WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns has opened RAW due primarily to the fact that he was either the reigning WWE Universal Champion or the "uncrowned" WWE Universal Champion. It helped that he's been the top wrestler the company has invested a lot in. The unexpected part came with the news he brought with him: his leukemia had returned, so he must now relinquish his title and leave the company to focus on his health. This wasn't a goodbye, according to Roman, because he'll back after he kicks leukemia's ass.

    This is the same wrestler the company kept pushing at the expense of everyone else, the very personification of WWE Creative ignoring fan reactions, but his news has everyone reeling with both confusion and profound sadness. It's possible to still hate characters but the people playing them could always be a different story. This was a remarkable segment and quite possibly, if you really think about it, one of the best babyface turns of all time. There's nothing like cancer to put just about anyone over, and Roman Reigns isn't just about anyone. Get well soon, Joe, and from the bottom of my heart, fuck cancer.

    Personally, I never really hated Roman; I was only mildly annoyed at WWE for constantly pushing his face against mine. That said, I've never actually cared about him always hovering close by the main title picture, especially since the clear alternatives were always (A) the murderous Braun Strowman, who still hasn't faced legal repercussions for his many attempts on the life of my best friend in the whole wide world, Kevin Owens and of course (B) the Beast part-timer Brock Lesnar. Don't get me wrong: Lesnar, who may be the very definition of hype thanks to Heyman, can back it all up in the ring, but Lesnar as champion has never been as exciting to me as, say, Drew McIntyre as Universal champion. 

    Given all that, I wasn't really that interested in seeing Roman lose his title come Crown Jewel—or this early for that matter. I wasn't even slightly interested in that main event. I'm not even sure I got around to being interested in the PPV altogether. What I am interested in, though, is what happens now that Reigns has relinquished his title and will be disappearing from WWE television for quite some time. Will Brock once again take the spotlight as the Universal Champion? Ugh. Will Strowman replace Reigns as the top star for a while? Ugh. Or will WWE dare to focus on a new player, someone like, I don't know, the former "Chosen One," Drew McIntyre and push him to the stars as a credible champion? 6 stars, Dave. 6 stars indeed.

    Speaking of McIntyre, we all saw that title loss coming, right? I mean, not as well as Strowman seeing that Claymore after his verbal encounter with Heyman, but well enough to figure out that Braun was going to get his vengeance on the same night. There seems to be no limits to Heyman's mic genius, as he managed to respectfully address the Reigns situation while still hyping everyone for the one-on-one Brock Lesnar versus Braun Strowman Universal title match at Crown Jewel. Will this interesting feud between Braun and Drew bleed out through Crown Jewel? Or are we going to have to wait until that PPV's over to get any sort of continuity? Hey, maybe Drew costs Braun that title match at Crown Jewel and oh god, no, please no

    What was most interesting about that tag title loss, though, was what happened after the match. The remaining Shield membersDean Ambrose and Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollinsreaped what the Dogs of War sowed among themselves, becoming tag champions as the latter continued to fight among themselves. But then, what I've been waiting for actually happened, much to my surprise and discreet delight: Ambrose finally turned on Rollins, laying him out with those damn Dirty Deeds in the middle of that ring. 

    Dean has been the most predictable and awaited heel turn of this year, but WWE has managed to masterfully pull the trigger on him, getting the Lunatic some massive heel heat in the process. This must've felt like walking a tightrope for WWE Creative, considering what just transpired in the opening, but the timing was perfect. If anything, Roman, or more precisely Joe, seems to be respectful about the business and would probably have wanted it this way—for the show to continue and for his so-called brothers to burn it down... not literally of course. 

    No one saw this coming because we were all caught by surprise with Reigns' announcement. Even WWE's own personnel didn't know what was going on with him. This turn could've been planned in advance and postponing it to commemorate someone who seems to be more about the business than himself wouldn't have worked as perfectly as it has.

    Before anyone forgets, Seth first turned on his Shield brothers in 2014 to join The Authority after the Hounds of Justice beat Triple H and friends in a pretty intense feud. Did Seth deserve Dean turning on him on the same night Roman announced he was temporarily leaving because of leukemia? Probably not. Seth might understand it, though. Without Roman, Rollins was alone and vulnerable for Dean's attack. We can't say the Architect wouldn't appreciate the irony and tactical genius of the plot, especially from someone known as a lunatic. 

    Was Dean being a petty asshole for this brutal attack despite Seth having already apologized and made amends? Probably not. You have to remember that at one time in their amazing feud, Seth tried to basically murder Dean by stomping his head through cinder blocks. Dean might be a Lunatic but it's shit like that you just can't forget. 

    What's more, Dean's anger towards Seth might have been building for a long time now. He did return with that scowl on his face, and if you watch that episode again, he didn't look like he was stoked to see his brother and fight beside him like a brother would be. Dean was all business, angry business, and he was out there simply to make an impact. 

    Still, what the hecking heck? They're RAW Tag Team Champions now! What bad timing! Or are they going to feud with each other as tag team champions, ruining any potential challenge the RAW tag team division can throw their way? What about the Intercontinental Championship? As far as titles go, The Shield sure has been a sinkhole for championship opportunities. 

    Oh, well. At least Drew's closing in on the Universal title picture. Where does Ziggler go from here, though? Definitely not winning that World Cupmy money's on Kurt Angle for the nostalgia pop and because that promo was pretty goodbut count on him stealing that show at the very least. 

    Triple H and Shawn Michaels cut a great promo that referenced a lot of real-life events, including Kane being mayor (I laughed hard at this), GoPros in boiler rooms (that's a reference to Kane living in arena boiler rooms throughout the years, right?), and the letter X of the past and of the future. It's a great way to put a positive spin on Triple H's suit and boardroom presence, but the mayor and GoPro retorts, even though they're mostly real and factual, made me feel somewhat sorry for Kane's mystique. Remember when he used to be the Devil's Favorite Demon and did heinous things like burn good old J.R. alive? Good times. 

    Stripped down to its core, though, DX's promo was basically about being old, looking like they were having a midlife crisis. There's nothing left to prove for these guys, as they implied when they mentioned turning in one X for another. 

    With real-life stuff getting drizzled all over this feud, the Brothers of Destruction barely come off as shells of their former supernatural selves. I'm not saying it's still real to me, damn it. All I'm saying is that this feud is slowly but surely making me realize it's way past time these four guys focused on their respective futures away from the ring to honor their great legacies. The Phenom still wrestling in crutches definitely ruins his own awe-inspiring legacy.

    The Undertaker and Kane talking about respect just sounds like your grandpa whining about them "kids these days," except DX aren't kids anymore despite what the theme song would lead you to believe. This now feels like a grudge match between two pairs of grandpas who are fighting over the television's remote control, quite possibly an upcoming movie plot from the likes of Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Adam Sandler, and Ben Stiller.  Make this curtain call count, gramps, before it's too late.

    Last week, RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey verbally destroyed Nikki Bella, with the lesser Bella twin behind her. That meant it was Nikki's turn to continue making this feud as personal as ever this week. Her attempt wasn't that bad, going as far as dragging Ronda's mom into this feud like a proper heel. You know what they say, right? Never bring someone's mom into a fight. The insults never reached the desired level of reactions, though, but it was most probably just because fans have had years to hate Nikki, while a lot of us don't actually know the personal issues surrounding Rousey. I was more of a Miesha Tate fan myself. Still, that was a very good heel promo from Nikki.

    That slap was pretty good, too, and if the goal here was to further emphasize how Nikki isn't a threat to Ronda's reign, then they did really great here. Ronda no-selling that slap undermined Nikki's physical threat but maybe that was the point. I'm not going to lie, I would've wished Brie had more use here than just playing Nikki's sidekick. She could've attacked Ronda, and Nikki could've joined to emphasize that the twins have the numbers advantage. Then Ronda could have powerbombed Brie through that table with Nikki staring at the champ, horrified, after rolling to her own safety at ringside. Classic Ronda Rousey contract signing.

    Alexa Bliss is still injured this week, if not more injured, so I got a bit concerned. Is Alicia Fox replacing her in that tag team match at Evolution with Mickie James against Hall of Famers Trish Stratus and Lita? No official news yet, but man, that would be a shame. Nothing against Foxy but Bliss versus Trish was the highlight of that match for me. Ah, well. Here's hoping my ex, Alexa, gets better soon. She deserves to be part of Evolution, even if she'll just be a ringside mouthpiece. Wait, this was the go-home show for Evolution?! What the hell?

    RAW REVIEW: It's a terrible way to go out like this, but here's hoping it'll be just temporary and Roman Reigns comes back victorious against leukemia. This RAW tried to make reality bleed into its storylines, as was the case with the DX/BoD promos and the Evolution title match contract signing. Its greatest strength, however, came in the form of that turn at the very end, even if it seems to complicate things in the long run. There was a happy ending here in Seth and Dean becoming tag team champions once again, with Seth now a double champion, but that happy ending didn't last long, courtesy of Seth's own tag team partner and remaining Shield brother. Hot damn. Some thought it was inappropriate, but how exactly? It wasn't like Dean cut a promo making light of Roman's leukemia. If you really think about it, Dean actually went out and won the tag titles first, a feat he and Seth promised to accomplish in their Shield brother's honor, before attacking Rollins for his own reasons. No one can deny that Dean just got himself some massive heel heat for what he did, though. Joe Anoa'i would've approved. This week's RAW gets an A for "Anoa'i will beat leukemia, belee dat!"  

    Quick Hitters:
    • Finn Bálor stealing a win from Bobby Lashley, who had Lio Rush at ringside, was an okay way to further this feud. Do we actually need this feud? Bobby does. Finn's fans, however, might not be too keen to see where this is inevitably going. Hopefully, we do see Finn and Lio tangle in that ring during this feud. It's a personal wish that could be awesome if given enough time. Bobby's just going to blindside Finn if that ever happens, though, right? I'm with Mrs. Dean Ambrose on commentary, though: Why is Lio still not wearing a shirt under that suit?
    • Ruby Riott going over Sasha Banks was the better option here. BaySash is dead and the Riott Squad needs more wins to become a credible threat for future storylines. I'm hoping that the Squad beats BaySash plus Nattie at Evolution. Logically, that should be the case but we never really know until the match ends.
    • Welp, so much for that push for Apollo Crews then? Hopefully not, but Elias wins their first match since their encounter last week. Elias also wins this week's best segment ever after taking out Acting RAW GM Baron Corbin with his guitar. That's for cutting off Elias's second performance, Corbin! This sounds like a weird feud on paper but the crowd seems to be all for the possible face turn for Elias. Is it, though? Elias has always been a tweener to me, a sketchy one at that, able to make the crowd (except Seattle) boo or cheer him whenever he wants them to. Corbin is most definitely a heel and I can't see him turning face anytime soon. This could be interesting if done right.
    • Ember Moon pinned Tamina, who just returned last week, to win this Fatal Four-Way plug for the Evolution Battle Royal. Jax almost had the win but Tamina countered that Samoan drop attempt with a superkick before Ember took her opportunity and hit the Eclipse for the win. Man, Jax did not look amused, though I doubt Moon's backing down any time soon. That's a former Women's Champion right there.
    • Titus O'Neil is definitely the perfect guy to do the Breast Cancer Awareness Month segment because of how personal it is for him. This was good, if not inspiring. 
    Images from WWE


    Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW & NXT UK for Smark Henry. He has been an avid professional wrestling fan since grade school. These reviews are as close to professional wrestling as he can get. According to him, Kevin Owens is his best friend in the whole wide world. Fuck cancer. 
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (10/22/18): One Good Turn Deserves Another Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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