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    Thursday, January 9, 2020

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (1/6/20): Does Controversy Still Create Cash?

    It's been a while since I actually sat down and write one of these RAW reviews. Before we get started, our regular RAW reviewer Jofer Serapio has been out of commission for the past number of weeks because of the damage that Typhoon Ursula (Phanfone) left behind in his home province of Aklan. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and everyone who's been affected in the aftermath. If you'd like to be part of the relief efforts, please click here to find out how you can help.

    On to the review, shall we?

    During the holidays, I was listening to Vince Russo's guesting on Talk Is Jericho and one of my takeaways from his interview was how he remains adamant about making wrestling appeal to the casual fans or to a wider reach, instead of appeasing the more hardcore fans. To an extent, I get where he's coming from. The smarky fans like us (seriously, would you really be reading a column on a website called Smark Henry if you weren't persmarkety about your wrestling?) will always be there. But wrestling will forever be a niche interest unless it experiences the groundswell of mainstream exposure that it did during the Attitude Era. That's why it's important to get the eyes of the casual audience on the product if WWE hopes to please major TV networks like Fox and USA with ratings.

    Russo's argument is exactly why this insufferable angle between Rusev, Lana, and Bobby Lashley is still going on. We all know it's ridiculous and yet, it still gets major TV time because of how sensational it is. Look no further than Filipino society. We're tsismoso by nature, so to see a storyline about scandals and infidelity drives interest. The goal isn't to satisfy longtime, loyal viewers. It's to draw lapsed or new fans with something like, "Hey, check out this story going on about the sex addict who got left by his wife for the big African-American dude!"

    It's also why Brock Lesnar was brought back this week for a rare appearance on Monday Night RAW. They trotted him out there so he and Paul Heyman could declare their intentions to enter the Rumble—from the #1 position, to boot. Brock is as mainstream a name as they have on their roster, so his presence on the show was naturally going to draw eyes. But for the WWE Champion to outrightly declare that he'd be in the Rumble? Without the title on the line (unlike in 2016)? Well, that's something worth talking about!

    The question that should be answered is: is it being talked about the way WWE would want us to? Looking through reactions on social media, they're divided, which could be good because that means people have different opinions and they're talking about it.

    For the longest time, the Smark Henry stand has always been to just tell good stories and let people get invested in the characters naturally. The problem with the Russo argument is that he expects his television audience to have such low standards for what entertains them. Going by his logic, TV audiences have to be titillated and sensationalized by whatever's on TV so that he can keep their attention.

    But WWE themselves have proven that you can tell good stories and still capture the imagination of a wide fanbase. Look no further than the Daniel Bryan arc from 2014 or even Becky Lynch's feud with Ronda Rousey from last year. Sure, neither of those feuds were handled perfectly, and in Becky's case, she benefited from having a mainstream name like Ronda and the daughter of one of the GOATs in Charlotte Flair as foils. That said, neither program was Rusev/Lana/Lashley levels of cringe and yet they still managed to get the level of attention Vince would be happy with in this day and age.

    It's really unfortunate that this is how RAW continues to stand out as we kick off the 2020s. All the prestige associated with being on RAW as the flagship program is merely window dressing, especially when the show and its Creative team are sandbagged by the same lack of flexibility in its storytelling. Why emphasize on some damn good wrestling when you can get it on SmackDown, NXT, or 205 Live? Why build characters when you can just put them through programs that'll make everyone go, "WTF?" You're on RAW, goddammit, that's where all the viewers are.

    Until RAW makes the change it needs, it'll continue to be on the same treadmill it's been for the last decade or so. New year, same old shit.

    Quick Hitters

    • I get the idea behind enlisting Big Show as Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe's backup. But couldn't they have gotten someone younger in his place instead? We don't know how long this current run with Big Show is going to last, but this spot could have gone to a Superstar who could've used the rub. 
    • What are the rules of a Fist Fight in WWE?! 
    • I'm possibly in the minority here, but I like the additional layers to the Erick Rowan story with how Mojo Rawley and the local competitor interacted with whatever is in his cage. Color me intrigued. 
    • I don't understand how beating me over the head repeatedly with Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy part 459237281 bajillion on the span of a month is supposed to get me invested in this feud. 
    • Speaking of extending feuds, why does the latest chapter of Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade feel like deja vu? 
    • That Becky Lynch/Asuka segment was short and sweet and actually moved their story forward. Sana all.
    What did you think of the first RAW of the decade? Sound off in the comments section below! 

    Header image from WWE

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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (1/6/20): Does Controversy Still Create Cash? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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