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    Thursday, December 31, 2015

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (12/28/15): Will the Real Superman Please Stand Up?

    The biggest question on everyone’s minds concerning John Cena’s return was how he’d fit into the grand scheme of things now that Roman Reigns is the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Roman’s still being groomed to be the #1 babyface even after John Cena moves on, and at this point, he’s far from a finished product. But with Cena back in the picture, will Jearn once again be the Super Cena that triumphs over all the baddies? Or will Roman Reigns assume that role, requiring Cena to take some sort of step back?

    We got our answer this week during the main event when John Cena’s United States Championship match against Alberto Del Rio ended in a disqualification thanks to some interference from the League of Nations. John Cena was being decimated by Del Rio, Sheamus, and Rusev, and left in a heap when the Usos suddenly came out to Cena’s aid. Outnumbered, the twins got their asses handed to them until Roman Reigns heroically showed up and systematically dispatched of the League of Nations.

    This is an all too familiar scene, except that Cena’s role of babyface in peril is usually played by the #2 babyface, someone like a Dean Ambrose or Dolph Ziggler. I was actually pleased that they chose to establish Cena’s role that way, especially since he was just returning from a two-month hiatus. If he were so invincible right away upon his return, then everyone who had been tired of Super Cena would snap right back into sipping the John Cena haterade.

    Another good thing about Cena in this role is that it slowly tells us a new story in Cena being the veteran who isn’t as invincible as he used to be. As tired as some fans are of seeing John Cena as the face of the WWE, they forget that Cena’s already 38 years old, and that he can’t do this forever. Hell, Cena’s run as the U.S. Champion earlier this year was the first step to him taking the elder statesman role a la Shawn Michaels during his second run with WWE.

    What bothers me about what happened at the end of this week’s RAW is that now we’re getting Super Roman. Sure, we’ve already seen this happen before, and they were kind of building to it as early as his days in the Shield as the heavy-artillery muscle of the group. But it appears as if WWE’s quick to forget the reason the fans shunned Roman’s ascension to the throne in the first place.

    While it’s always good to see the good guys triumph over the bullies, having Roman dispatch of the League of Nations so quickly fell flat for me. For one thing, it doesn’t say a lot about the credibility of the Usos, who—despite being tired and injured from competing earlier in the night—still came out to rescue John Cena and quickly got beaten up by the League. I get that the Usos are just secondary players in this larger story, but Creative shouldn’t be forgetting about the minor players in this story. After all, when someone like Vince McMahon is involved in terrorizing your top babyface, there are ramifications that trickle down across the roster.

    Stories are always compelling when there is depth and nuance as they progress. This is the reason why fans have been so happy to accept Roman Reigns’ victory the night after TLC. The larger saga of Roman overcoming his critics and limitations, plus the kayfabe narrative of the Authority coming down hard on him, was gripping enough to get most fans to cheer for him. Now that Roman has prevailed, he has some new challenges ahead of him. Just because he’s the champion, that shouldn’t mean that he’s already indestructible. He is still human, after all. And it is when we see the humanity of the characters we see on TV that we are most likely to get behind them. There’s not much fun in seeing one guy demolish all of the villains on a nightly basis. Creative should learn from the failures of Cena’s run as the top babyface that the easiest way to polarize the WWE Universe is to build Super Cena 2.0.

    On a more positive note, this happened after the cameras stopped rolling.
    I like that they’re teasing tension between Cena and Roman Reigns. Could it be John Cena trying to prove that he’s still got what it takes to beat the baddies and doesn’t need Roman’s help? Could it be Roman trying to prove to Cena that the latter’s time is up and that Reigns’ time is now? Could it be that they are punking each other out to prove who the real superman is? I wouldn’t mind it if we got the answers to any or all three questions. If this leads to an uneasy, tenuous alliance between Cena and Roman with underlying plot points that could lead them to fight with one another, then I’m in.

    We’ve got a brand new year ahead of us, and there’s so much promise in it. Let’s hope the powers that be don’t drop the ball on what could be another turning point for the WWE’s overall growth as a storytelling machine.

    Quick Hitters

    • As shallow and silly as it was, I won’t deny that it was just so much fun seeing Vince McMahon get arrested while Stephanie McMahon threw a fit. Vince and Steph know how to play to their strengths as heels by being whiny and entitled just because they’re rich and powerful. Seeing them get taken down a few pegs because of the arrest—and that mugshot—was another sweet cathartic moment to end 2015.
    • I really enjoyed seeing Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch get significant time to wrestle on TV. I ranted a few weeks ago about Sasha and Becky being given four minutes to wrestle a throwaway match, but now that there’s a larger story involving Becky trying to prove to Charlotte that she can hang on her own, while Team B.A.D. tries to one-up her with their numbers and UNITY!, I’m actually satisfied with the direction of the Divas division. This is proof that keeping it simple can really do a story wonders. 

    • Since NXT signed Kevin Owens and he completed the “NXT Five”—an internet nickname for the five indy darlings (Owens, Sami Zayn, Neville, Hideo Itami, and Finn Balor) on whom the IWC is pinning their hopes for the future on—I’ve been thinking about the delicious matchups they can produce within one another. Balor versus Owens was pretty good, but lost a bit of steam heading into TakeOver: Brooklyn, while we never got to see much of Itami vs. Owens and Zayn vs. Owens due to injuries to both Itami and Zayn. 
    • Now that we’re getting Neville vs. Kevin Owens on the main roster, I’m excited to see where they can go and what they can do with this, since it’s yet another simple story. Owens is the brash, arrogant former champion who lost in an upset against the undersized Neville. It’s also nice to see Neville finally get a story that matters since Owens is in a position very close to the top of the card because of his talent and popularity, so the rub can only do Neville wonders.
    • Creative took a step in the right direction with having individual members of the Lucha Dragons taking on individual members of the New Day. I liked the little story they developed over the half-hour both teams were on TV. 

    • It’s a shame that Sin Cara went down with a shoulder injury, which prevents the Lucha Dragons from challenging for the Tag Team Championships at the Royal Rumble. However, this could open the door for a new story with Kalisto trying to take on the New Day all by himself, which could turn out very well if Creative plays its cards right.
    • Big Show made yet another return this week to declare his intentions to win the Royal Rumble match. Ho-hum. Thanks. Moving on.


    As the show that never ends, RAW has always had the unenviable challenge of constantly trying to search for the right elements to spice the show up. They earn some brownie points for setting up the Neville vs. Owens feud, the Sasha vs. Becky 15-minuter, and the Vince McMahon arrest. But having Super Roman come in to save the day all on his own is a bit of a downer for the reasons I stated above. That being said, the final RAW of 2015 gets a B.

    Happy New Year, Henrinites!

    Photos from WWE.

    Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Report (12/28/15): Will the Real Superman Please Stand Up? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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