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    Tuesday, March 24, 2020

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (3/23/20): Teach Me How To Promo

    Anybody here still watching RAW, even in the Super Duper Kaduper Bajillion Enhanced Extreme Community Quarantine Era? Am I the only one? Well, let me tell you something.

    Just like Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, I stay in my bedroom and watch RAW so you don't have to. Stay on your couch and watch something else for me. In fact, I'll take another page out of his playbook and say that if you ask me to hold up a sign again, and even if the sign makes fun of me for still watching RAW every week like a crazy person, but it gets people to read these reviews instead of wasting three hours of their day, I will do it again and again and again. I'm a hero, goddammit! Shower me with praise!

    Alright, now that I've given you more reasons to hate me the same way this government has made you hate them, let me get to the review.

    It's a weird time in wrestling and it's mind-boggling how WWE has chosen to respond, to be honest. The decision to still push through with WrestleMania is one that reeks of stubbornness, and at this point, it only takes one person under the WWE umbrella to test positive for COVID-19 for the entire house to crumble. I don't want this to happen. And while I have a lot of anxiety about the health of the WWE's employees and talents, reports from Dave Meltzer indicate that they're at least taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously, with news coming out that Rey Mysterio and Dana Brooke are currently quarantined after they both got sick over the last few days.

    That changes at least a couple of planned WrestleMania matches, as Dana was supposed to be part of the SmackDown Women's Championship match. Meltzer reports that that is no longer the case since she's under quarantine right now, which is absolutely the right call. Meanwhile, Mysterio was rumored to be in a United States Championship match against Andrade at 'Mania, which has also been changed as of this week's RAW because Rey got sick. Again, totally the right call.

    Where WWE's calls have become questionable is in the way they've run their shows since the Social Distancing Era began. While AEW has proceeded with their episodes of Dynamite normally sans the fans, both RAW and SmackDown have become glorified reruns of some of the WWE's most recent additions to their greatest hits. We got the same thing this week with the Triple Threat WWE Championship match between Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, and John Cena from Royal Rumble 2015 and the SmackDown Women's Championship match between Charlotte and Asuka from WrestleMania 34 getting airtime on RAW. Don't get me wrong. Both matches were awesome in the moment, but since I'd already seen them and had no desire to rewatch them, it made the decision to skip through RAW segments much easier.

    The rest of the show was basically filled with promos, which are my favorite part of wrestling, but man, even I'm beginning to get tired of all the promos when there's barely any wrestling on the actual show. What makes the promos fun to watch, however, are the marked differences in the way wrestlers deliver them now that they're only talking to either their opponents or the cameras. It's been refreshing to see wrestlers change their normal cadence while delivering promos, except for you, AJ Styles. Either he refuses to change his promo style or someone didn't give him the memo that there are no fans at all here.

    If you're looking to improve your promo game, juxtaposing live promos in front of a crowd with the promos that guys like Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton cut on this week's RAW is a fun little exercise. You get to hear them talk more like normal people with heightened feelings of anger and aggression. There's the obvious element of the crowd being loud that requires wrestlers to shout into a mic sometimes. But the gravelly yelling can get old, especially when you realize that it's just not really how people talk.

    Kevin Owens, in particular, has always stood out as a promo guy because even when there is a live audience present, he's able to cut a promo on a live mic like he's just talking to you. He doesn't need to be a hyperbole of a human being to connect with you as a larger-than-life character. Yet, he gets his message across by talking naturally. Most people who learn to cut promos think that they have to stop at certain parts of their sentences or train of thought so they can cue the crowd to cheer. But in reality, when you're talking to someone and you're mad at them, you're going off on a tirade. You're not pausing for a pop (or a boo).

    Whether you're a newcomer to the promo game or someone who just loves the mic work, seeing all these promos on WWE TV leading up to WrestleMania should teach you a new thing or two about how to tell a story on the mic, even when there's nobody else but you and the camera.

    Oh, and we also got three matches, but one of them was a squash that lasted like a minute. Another randomly introduced us to an NXT guy that had never been on TV before and the last one was an attempt to legitimize Andrade and Angel Garza as a tag team.

    I understood what RAW tried to do in booking these matches. They were supposed to set up WrestleMania stories and all. But it seemed like they skipped crucial story beats like establishing WHY THE FUCK ALEISTER BLACK AND BOBBY LASHLEY NEED A MATCH AT WRESTLEFUCKINGMANIA. Yes, I get that it's essentially WrestleMania Empty Arena, but if I'm still supposed to believe in the grandeur and spectacle of 'Mania—even with the lack of attendees—then I have to know why these two are even getting a match. Is that too much to ask for? Couldn't a promo or a future title opportunity have given them a reason to beef? The only silver lining I got out of this was that it looks like the Rusev/Lana/Lashley angle is dead at this point. I didn't realize all it took to kill this story was COVID-19.

    Okay, I understand that Andrade vs. Rey had to be kiboshed because Rey's under quarantine. And at least, we're not getting Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo for the 234284523897th time. Dave Meltzer also reported today that Rezar of AOP tore his bicep, which explains why AOP has suddenly been missing. Okay. But can someone please explain WHY A BRAND NEW TAG TEAM WITH NO PROVEN TRACK RECORD IS GETTING A TITLE SHOT ALL OF A SUDDEN?

    Is it really too much to ask for stories to make sense? You could argue that Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder got a tag title shot out of nowhere last year at WrestleMania 35, but they at least took the time to establish that through YouTube and one RAW backstage vignette. Andrade and Garza as the Street Profits' challengers were just sprung on us like a viral epidemic that nobody asked for (too soon?) and I can't even make any sense of it.

    Quick Hitters

    • With all the Michelle McCool shout-outs AJ Styles has been throwing around, she better be present at WrestleMania 2 Empty 2 Furious for some sort of payoff. Is she going to shit on the Styles Clash and claim that the Faithbreaker made that move famous in WWE?
    • With the obscene amount of talent on NXT's roster, why did they pick Brendan Vink—someone who hasn't been seen on WWE TV at all—to appear on RAW? This guy just appears out of nowhere with no buildup and came across like a random jabroni. We don't know why he's aligned with Shane Thorne or why he even deserved a "call-up" to RAW. Yes, a little homework/research will tell you that he was part of Thorne's original TMDK stable in Australia. But clearly, nobody bothered to make that connection on TV.
    • Poor Ricochet probably doesn't care anymore now that Creative seems to have nothing going for him that he went on to shave his beard. Damn.
    • You know you're only following wrestling logic when you expect Becky Lynch's music to play (and it actually does) after she assaults Shayna Baszler from behind, even though there's literally no one there to pop for her theme song.
    Header image from WWE


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (3/23/20): Teach Me How To Promo Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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