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    Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (10/15/18): The Monster Without Men

    Despite the rumblings of the dirt sheets amid the murky politics involved, the WWE Crown Jewel PPV is apparently still a go. Okay then. I'm not going to dwell on the intricacies of that complex situation since I'm only here to review this week's RAW, but let me just get this off my chest: that World Cup tournament is actually more of a World Series. There are far too many Americans in it now, which makes the Cruiserweight Classic a better fare if you really want that World Cup feel. At least there's still either Rey Mysterio for Mexico or WWE United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura for Japan to make the whole thing a bit more global. We all know Aiden English is ruining Rusev's chances against The Miz in that qualifier, right? Sorry, Ricky.

    Last week, we had a pretty interesting development in the Shield versus Dogs of War saga when ZigMcMan beat the Hounds of Justice in three-man tag action that led to Dean Ambrose walking out on his so-called brothers. This week, Ambrose continued to play the compelling wild card, conspicuously absent during his Shield brothers' interruption of the Dogs of War's gloating and even almost coming to blows with WWE Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins later in the night. 

    It goes without saying that they really furthered the Ambrose walkout drama this week. Rollins expressing his utmost faith in Ambrose on the mic, despite WWE RAW Tag Team Champion Dolph Ziggler taunting 2/3 of the Shield, was eventually repaid when the Lunatic Fringe, who doesn't want to be called a lunatic anymore, came out for the assist during the World Cup qualifier match between Rollins and WWE RAW Tag Team Champion Drew McIntyre. The match was absolutely amazing, considering the talents involved, but the result? I'm 50-50 about that. No one likes to watch their favorites lose, but the way Drew lost sort of protects him and I guess what happened later in the show sort of makes up for it. 

    Interestingly, while Dean's assist got Seth to qualify for the World Cup, Rollins' attempt to return the favor wasn't as successful, leading to Dolph qualifying for the World Cup instead of Ambrose. Again, the match was great, considering the talents involved, but naturally, Dean was pissed off about how it all unfolded. He had already taken offense to Seth calling him a lunatic earlier in the night, which was quite understandable, considering Dean's current issues, and this was not a great way for Seth to make it up to him. These honest misunderstandings are great ways to further the possible schism in the Shield brotherhood.  

    In the end, it wasn't the Shield that imploded—at least not tonight, at least not yet. The Shield were given another opportunity to correct last week's six-man tag failure against the Dogs of War, thanks to a "concerned" Acting RAW GM Baron Corbin. They sure as hell corrected the hell out of it, allowing Ambrose to get the pin after a patented Shield powerbomb on Ziggler. Strowman, being a massive turd, honored his promise and attacked Dolph after the loss. The loss wasn't even because of a mistake on Ziggler's part. It was a 3-on-1 attack, Braun, and none of Dolph's teammates were around. How dare you, Braun?! These guys had your back and now you're taking out your frustrations on them? Naturally, McIntyre didn't take this kindly and returned the favor by hitting the Claymore on Braun's massive head, which made me pop so hard that I almost ended my laptop's career. That's for almost killing Kevin Owens, Braun! Eat Scottish feet!

    But are the Dogs of War really done? Is the Shield finally fine? What's Brock Lesnar farming these days? Next week is going to be very interesting.

    After DX cut a passionate in-ring promo against them last week, the Brothers of Destruction finally responded with an appropriate vignette promo. Man, these guys are still epic on the mic, and that promo gave me chills, a clear throwback to ages ago. However, the bottom line is this was all really just smoke and mirrors. 

    Kane's a mayor now and The Undertaker is well past his prime. Like Ric Flair before him, Taker is slowly ruining his own legend by refusing to stay down and acknowledge his physical limits. That and this whole Crown Jewel thing is starting to make everyone involved in this match look ridiculous. I can't say I'm hyped about this match for Crown Jewel, I'm just hyped these guys are still around, but it was good to see the Brothers of Destruction (making promos) together again.

    Prior to their in-ring promo encounter with the baddest woman on the planet, The Bella Twins were looking paranoid backstage, which was understandable since the woman they picked a fight with happens to be an actual fighter and a freaking monster. Girls, what are you doing? 

    But this wasn't really about the Bella Twins. No, this was mostly about the WWE RAW Women's Champion, "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, and making her look good on the mic. This is honestly the best promo Rousey has had since she debuted. That quip about the Bellas riding the coattails of their men was great. That quip about John Cena's bedroom door? Holy crap. I was in tears. They just let Ronda go there. They had Rousey rip the Bellas to shreds. That was just brutal, man. Props to Nikki for agreeing to do that—if she did agree—and if her whole split with Cena is actually real. I don't watch Total Bellas, but I've heard that that whole thing may just be a stunt for that show. "Reality television," am I right? 

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I can easily refute Nikki Bella's argument on the Bella Twins being the reason everyone tuned in to women's wrestling in WWE. Personally, I tuned in for other female wrestlers like Natalya, Beth Phoenix, even Katie Lea Burchill. Gail Kim, Melina, Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, and AJ Lee were also still active around the time The Bellas made their debut. When most of these competitors left, I turned to NXT to get my fair share of women's wrestling. Now I'm not discrediting Nikki Bella's pretty impressive resumé. I'm just saying that Nikki had me eyerolling really hard during her time on the mic.

    Of course, if you really get down to it, to the nitty gritty, you'd find some flaws in Rousey's arguments as well. She said she didn't want to disrespect those that came before her...before dissing the Divas Era (to be fair, that era was atrocious for misrepresenting what it meant to be an actual female wrestler, but that does not discredit the hard work the actual talent did to pave the road for the current era); pulled a Roman Reigns when she went on about not being handed anything on a silver platter (she's a big name in UFC, in MMA, and like most money-making businesses, the WWE was bound to capitalize on that, so of course, she got a few things handed to her on a silver platter), and messed up the "truth" behind Nikki's split with Cena (Nikki couldn't have been kicked out the door because she left Cena apparently). 

    These flaws, however, are beside the point. Sure, Ronda's Divas Era lines were unnecessary but that's mostly because everyone already hates the Bellas despite anything they say about being the "pioneers" of that time. One could argue that AJ Lee was the true pioneer of that time, the indie worker among the dancers and models, but AJ Lee is no longer with the WWE. AJ Lee isn't even the first thing that comes to anyone's mind when they hear the word "diva." That would be Maryse or Team LayCool or heel Eve Torres who all played the diva archetype to its full heel potential. 

    There's no mistaking that the Bella Twins, probably the only remaining "great" female wrestlers from that time, are the heels in this story. They blind sighted their "friend," all because they're jealous and greedy and better-looking than everyone. Carrying over their organically earned ire from fans over the years through countless, effortless story lines, the Bellas serve the perfect foil to get Ronda over. Ronda being more accurate in this program could ruin this dramatic dynamic between jealous backstabbers and a bad-ass out for blood. 

    After everything was said and done, Ronda proceeded to brutalize The Bellas' unfortunate (and probably underpaid) private security team. I'm suddenly looking forward to seeing Ronda brutalize Nikki in that ring. I've already seen her brutalize the better Bella on the mic. Evolution's going to be icing on that cake.

    Backstage, we saw Bayley give Trish and Lita hugs because why not? I honestly think that random encounters between wrestlers backstage is way better than just having them walk through the halls with a camera in their face. As with the Brothers of Destruction vignette promo, this Trish Stratus and Lita promo segment was pure nostalgia. Trish seems way better on the mic here than she was a week ago. Finally, we're inching closer to getting the Trish we deserve. 

    Alexa Bliss continued to be amazing on the mic, logically pointing out how she and Mickie have been active wrestlers while Trish and Lita were doing other things. Could that truth lead them to victory at Evolution? Hinting at the well-known relationship between Mickie James and Trish Stratus was also great. Sadly, no weird non-PG hand gestures here. Is Bliss still injured, though? If so, RIP Evolution match but props for the brawl tease instead of an actual brawl. Aside from prolonging these two teams getting their hands on one another, the tease shrouded the status of Bliss' health and the Hall of Famers' possible ring rust to great effect.

    Kurt Angle wore his vacation clothes back on RAW? Why? But, hey, it's great to see No Way Jose is still employed and that Glorious Gable are still together. That split's going to be a long tease, which isn't that bad. Build everyone up to care for this team before crushing their hearts, I always say. Acting RAW GM Baron Corbin scheduling Kurt against the AOP in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match reeked of passive-aggressive vengeance, but Angle's smarter here because he's had more experience dealing with corrupt authority figures.

    Still, why does Kurt have to wrestle as the Conquistador? Because he didn't have his gear? Corbin wrestles in his work clothes. He could've had Angle wrestle in his vacation clothes. It should've been obvious to Corbin that something would definitely be up, especially since he experienced that trickery himself in last week's World Cup Battle Royal. Is Corbin stupid? Or is he so arrogant that he's become so stupid?

    Angle should definitely take 205 Live GM and AOP Manager Drake Maverick's alignment with Corbin as a sign of war, so I can have that RAW versus 205 Live invasion storyline I never thought I wanted. Give me that Buddy Murphy/Seth Rollins match, Corbin! That Angle Slam on Corbin on the ramp was awesome, though. Well deserved and that Conquistador dance Angle did was hilarious. Oh, dad. You may be a terrible GM, but you still have a key to my heart. 

    RAW REVIEW: I'm amazed. Honestly, I am. RAW did a great job this week of swerving me in that I was 100% focused on the aftermath of the Dean walkout from last week that I didn't see the Dogs of War imploding. Well, not tonight. I did predict that this trio was going to implode sooner than later but it was simply a logical prediction from years and years of watching the WWE. I never really expected it to happen tonight. Maybe the uncertainty surrounding Crown Jewel helped distract me? Maybe I was just distracted by all the Hall of Famers coming back, including Kurt Angle, that I failed to expect this implosion? Whatever it was, I'm giving this week's RAW a C for "Claymore to the monster's mug."

    Quick Hitters:
    • Ember Moon and Nia Jax are friends again? Wait, no, Ember just teamed up with Tamina to toss Jax over the top rope! Welcome back, Tamina. Dana taking out both Ember and Tamina at the same time was satisfying revenge for getting pinned in this tag team match. I'm all in on this Evolution battle royal, especially since my girlfriend Peyton Royce and her friend Billie Kay will be in it, but no NXT or NXT UK girls? Hopefully in the coming weeks, we get them added to this match. I'd love for Nikki Cross to just go crazy on everyone before eliminating herself like the fun crazy person she is.
    • At first, I groaned at Finn Bálor and Bayley still feuding with Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox. This stemmed out of a Mixed Match Challenge ad and hasn't really gone anywhere. I mean, they have other RAW teams participating in Mixed Match Challenge. Why are Team B&B and Mahalicia (terrible names btw) the only teams caught in a loop? But then, Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush came out, Bob flexed in Finn's face before beating the hell out of Tyler Breeze, and we all know where this is going... Lashley versus Bálor in a flex-off at Crown Jewel! Book it, Vince!
    • The Riott Squad are now bullying Natalya for some reason. I guess they're over Brie Bella almost killing Liv Morgan? BaySash has Natalya's back, though, and then some. Sarah Logan causing the DQ to prevent a submission loss for Ruby Riott was surprising, though to be fair, I wasn't expecting Natalya to almost get the win. I thought this was going to be a much-needed Ruby Riott victory. Are these two teams facing each other at Evolution? The Riott Squad should go over then. They're the actual three-woman team, plus BaySash is gross.
    • Elias did some expected, but entertaining Elias things, referencing John Cena and then getting the crowd to chant with him before insulting them. He's like a toxic boyfriend and the WWE Universe is his hapless girlfriend. Apollo Crews—whose last name finally found its way back home—ended up interrupting Elias because, uhm, it was his turn? Elias wasn't even sure who he was, what disrespect! I just hope they give Apollo a decent push here. Guy's pretty athletic, though maybe he should get a memorable finisher first.
    • NXT UK is premiering later this week, so do join me as I chronicle (in a British accent) the inaugural battles of our kings (and queens) of the ring. Time to twirl your moustache, gents. 
    Images from WWE


    Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW for Smark Henry. His favorite professional wrestling shows include NXT, Lucha Underground, WWE, NJPW, Ring of Honor, and (gasp) Impact Wrestling. He pops hard for Samoa Joe, Marty Scurll, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre, and Andrade "Cien" Almas. 
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (10/15/18): The Monster Without Men Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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