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    Wednesday, August 3, 2016

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (8/1/16): Blood Red(-Roped) Summer

    Fresh faces, new rivalries and the return of the red ring ropes marked RAW's rebirth last week. This week, they looked to continue that momentum going forward, heading into the biggest show of the summer on their side of the world. Seeking out to capitalize on said momentum, there were confrontations galore that rocked the show—some already played out, but most have that “New Era” scent right on it.

    The new Women's Champion Sasha Banks kicked off the show, trading some back-and-forth words with her rival Charlotte. What made this encounter different from all their past ones was the insertion of two wild cards into the equation. Chris Jericho and Enzo Amore arrived and provided some spice to the proceedings. One may balk at their presences here, but it made for some true mic gold. Jericho still retained his grumpy, heelish demeanor but was as witty as ever, alignment be damned. Charlotte added in her own quick zingers, while Sasha and Enzo retaliated with their own insults.

    This made for some decent laughs, but in the grand scheme of things, this was not definitely a way the champion should look. Despite a solid outing from all four involved, Sasha ate the pinfall from Charlotte in what can only be an image-damaging loss for the champion. Jericho and Enzo could be heading into a rivalry of their own, which would surely be a head-scratcher if not for Kevin Owens declaring himself as his partner. After all, there's one Big Cass always backing up the Certified G.

    Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor, the two men competing for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam, delivered in a grade-A segment. Bálor showed unbridled intensity in his manner of speaking, while Rollins showed no sign of slowing down either. Both of them delivered passion in their responses, which could only bode well for some magic in their match if their mic work is any indication. A predictable attack by Rollins to cap it all off ruined it a bit, but it doesn't undo the golden eggs their segment laid. Both being amazing competitors, it may soon hatch into some amazing dragons come their Universal title match.

    The male counterpart of Nia Jax, Braun Strowman, took part in a squash match this week. Meanwhile, the female counterpart of Braun Strowman, Nia Jax, also competed in a quick outing. Squash matches have their places in a show, but they shouldn't rely on these on their own. Sooner or later, Braun and Nia have to win the crowd over with their individual dominance without their glorified crash test dummies. By then, it'll be sink or swim while their buddies (The Wyatt Family and Eva Marie, respectively) are over on the blue brand.

    The WWE's golden boy, Roman Reigns, has now dropped down a notch after making his presence felt as he interrupted Rusev's victory celebration. After a United States title defense against Mark Henry, Reigns came out and delivered a Superman Punch that rocked the Bulgarian Brute. Obviously a save-face attempt here to protect Roman’s image after two crushing defeats within the past week.

    Whether this can be considered as a rebuilding phase or a continued phase of his punishment at the hands of WWE brass, it could only mean good things for Reigns—a possible do-over after a failed status as a pet project, even if his inclusion in here looked forced.

    The Beast Incarnate and his advocate, Paul Heyman, closed out the show. No matter how good Heyman is on the mic, it can get tedious at times. It was an example of one such promo, wherein Paul Heyman becomes the hype machine he’s best known for. However, one factor saved this from being a dull affair.

    True to his new t-shirt's slogan (the idea of it being preceded by a dumb hashtag sign notwithstanding), the Viper struck outta nowhere with an RKO to Brock Lesnar. Defying the unwritten code of the brand extension, as well as breaking Heyman’s self-imposed Eleventh Commandment, Randy Orton angered Brock which can only mean some payback should be implemented. Perhaps as soon as SmackDown Live’s next episode.

    Evoking memories of brand warfare during the Ruthless Aggression era, RAW's GM and Commissioner came out to protect their prized lion alongside the red-clad roster. Truly a far cry from when Stephanie was hailing Orton as the new face of the WWE a couple of years back, he was now an outlaw that made a major statement.

    However, one major setback to this is the timing. If they had done such an “invasive” sneak attack six months or so down the line, it would definitely be more powerful. But seeing as the draft took place just two weeks ago, this segment saw no impact in terms of brand pride and division, especially on Orton’s side. He was merely there to slay a beast, and we couldn’t care less whatever brand he was around for he didn’t care either.

    RAW started and ended on some very high notes, and though it struggled weakly during the middle, the duration of the show is more to blame than anything else. This week's episode may not have been as explosive as the last, but the freshness of a new era is still felt, in the form of new encounters between Superstars we're already familiar with. Having absolutely no John Cena over here is enough freshness on RAW for me, personally, but I digress. As long as the unpredictability isn't overdone—silly 4th-of-July food fights and Pokemon Go interrupting a match do not belong in a ring—we could be in for a very smooth road to SummerSlam.

    Photos from WWE


    Miguel Asistio (@MTGMAis also known as the best writer in the world—at least according to his CM Punk-inspired delusions of grandeur. In the real world, he's been a proud fan of the WWE since its Ruthless Aggression days. He also enjoys reading comic books and playing fighting games when not trying to make his dream of being a successful novelist come true.

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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (8/1/16): Blood Red(-Roped) Summer Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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