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    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (4/17/17): When You Finally Catch A Break

    This was supposed to be just an ordinary episode of Monday Night RAW. But that’s not how I’ll end up remembering it. In fact, it stands out for two reasons. First, it’s the first episode of RAW in the first post-FOX era of wrestling in the Philippines. And second, it’s the first RAW after the Superstar Shake-Up. That means this is when things should settle down, and given RAW’s tendencies to settle into a funk and remain complacent, I was ready for another ho-hum slog of an episode.

    Boy, was I wrong.

    First off, RAW made the correct booking decision to keep Roman Reigns away from TV. Did you not see how Braun Strowman took him (and that ambulance) out? Hell, Strowman wasn’t finished yet!

    For all of the damage Roman took at the hands of the Monster Among Men, it’s incredibly refreshing that he didn’t miraculously heal up in just a week and show up on the very next RAW to punk Strowman out. WWE has set the precedent of having Reigns no-sell the damage he’s taken, so there was enough cause for concern.

    Remember when Roman Reigns got all that he could handle from Kevin Owens at this year’s Royal Rumble event? Owens needed to throw everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, at Reigns, and even needed a Strowman interference to finish Roman off. And then one hour later, who should come out at #30 during the Royal Rumble Match?

    This guy gives no fucks about your favorite wrestlers or your feelings.

    Yep, this motherfucker. He gives no shits about the damage he should’ve taken earlier.

    So not having Roman on this week’s RAW made it less insufferable than it normally is because we were spared a week of having him shoved down our throats.

    Of course you can’t talk about Roman without talking about BRRRRRRRAAAAAAAUUUUUUUNNNNNN!

    If the WWE fantasy league that we used to play on Facebook were still around, whoever had Braun Strowman would’ve made a killing because of all the appearances he made throughout the episode. I love the way he gave zero fucks and just obliterated everyone in his path. Here was a heel who made a threat and followed through on said threat when he didn’t get what he wanted. If I were a wrestler in that locker room and I had a guy that big punking people out left and right, I’d be shitting my pants in fear. Hell, I’d want the night off!

    My favorite Strowman attack was him just destroying Kalisto, then picking him up like a piece of garbage… and actually DUMPING him in the dumpster. That was pretty much a metaphor of Kalisto’s singles career since losing the United States Championship last year.

    You want a push? HERE!

    Strowman imposing his will on the entire RAW locker room was a fun recurring storyline throughout the night. It got fringe players like the Golden Truth, Kalisto, Heath Slater, and Rhyno some screen time, made Strowman look even more devastating, and instantly made Big Show a legit babyface who could put the Monster Among Men in his place.

    From the moment Show told Strowman to pick on someone his own size, the former immediately became relevant, and for a guy who’s flipped between face and heel more times than Kris Aquino says “Bimb” on an episode of KrisTV, that’s huge. As for the match itself, I enjoyed it because it was a really fun hoss fight. Both guys weren’t there to just fuck around and they committed to making it a really believable battle between two behemoths.

    The moment that stands out is definitely the ring collapsing, which is the third time it’s happened in WWE history—coincidentally, all three instances involve Big Show (who would’ve thunk it). As part of the story they were trying to tell, I thought it was an okay way to end the match and the show. What was incredibly funny was how the referee was legitimately thrown down and then violently fell out of the ring. I bet he saw his life flash through his eyes the moment Show and Strowman fell from the top rope. Thank you for your sacrifice, Referee John Cone.


    The second reason why RAW was a decent watch this week is because Kurt Angle only came out when he was necessary. One of the tired tropes on RAW post-brand split has been the power struggle between Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. Now that both are gone, Kurt Angle’s taken their place as the GM, but his presence isn’t grating like Steph’s is. We got goofy Angle over the last two weeks when we needed him. But this week, we got serious Angle. And serious Angle can be a pretty firm boss.

    More importantly, serious Angle didn’t even have to appear multiple times throughout the episode. He showed up to fulfill his purpose as a plot device, advanced the show’s larger story, and stayed in the back—or wherever General Managers go to hang out—for the rest of the night.

    Reason #3 for why RAW exceeded its normally low expectations this week: stories were advanced in a logical manner. It’s like RAW took a page from SmackDown Live’s playbook and decided that if they were going to get two hours and 20 minutes of airtime this week, then they were going to use it to tell stories, dammit!

    RAW has been notorious for scheduling matches that either go too long (the finale to the Roman Reigns/Rusev feud from last year comes to mind) or go too short—either way, the matches are booked for the sake of having them and no bigger stories are actually advanced. That doesn’t really happen this week because we got decent-to-good TV matches between Chris Jericho and Samoa Joe, TJ Perkins and Jack Gallagher, and Jeff Hardy and Cesaro—all of which were able to get their points across while advancing their respective stories.

    The Fatal 4-Way #1 Contender’s Match for the RAW Women’s Championship deserves a special mention as the Match of the Night. I loved how fast-paced the action was, and yet it allowed all the women to get their stuff in while giving us various matchups through the different intervals. The Sasha Banks/Mickie James face-off was particularly fun to watch because it reminded me of this morning’s Kawhi Leonard vs. Vince Carter face-off during the Spurs/Grizzlies game—it was generation versus generation.

    But the real winner was obviously Alexa Bliss, who became #1 Contender in her home state after putting out another superb performance in the ring. From how she desperately avoided Nia Jax throughout the match, to stepping up to Sasha when she had to, all the way to the finish where she stole the victory from Nia and pinned Sasha, Alexa brought her A-game this week. What’s even better is that the Alexa/Bayley matchup is fresh on the main roster, so their match at Payback should be one worth getting excited about.


    Quick Hitters
    • That MizTV segment was fun and all, but there has to be a better alternative than seeing Dean vs. Miz again. We already saw that on SmackDown Live and these two guys just got drafted to RAW. Why couldn’t they both have feuded with other RAW stars instead?
    • Miz brought his suit A-game this week. That red leather suit and those maroon shoes were… awesome.
    • Other backstage segments that were fun to watch were: the Apollo/Titus segment—which included a nice little moment between real life BFFs Apollo Crews and Akira Tozawa, the Alicia Fox/Emma/Dana Brooke segment which revealed how awful of a babyface actor Dana can be but otherwise got that story across, and that Chris Jericho interview where he went from serious to comedic in a jiffy. Mike Rome deserves brownie points for that last one.
    • How is it possible that I find Elias Samson’s drifter gimmick more enjoyable than his entire run on NXT? Oh wait, I know. BECAUSE HE’S ACTUALLY A DRIFTER ON THE MAIN ROSTER. HE’S LITERALLY A PALABOY
    • TJ Perkins is so much more fun to watch as a heel. He looks more loose and natural out there instead of him being forced to act like a goody-goody boy next door. So happy for Kuya TJ. 
    • What the fuck was that Bray Wyatt promo supposed to be? His promos have always been the best when he's able to ground the abstract things he talks about into the real things we fear in life. He just spewed out all these metaphors on and on and lost me a minute in. If the writers can't even care about Wyatt's writing heading into that House of Horrors Match at Payback, then why should we care about the result? Orton's retaining the title and staying on SmackDown anyway.
    Overall, this week’s RAW was bearable compared to the output we’ve become used to from the Red Brand. It was a result of proper pacing and storytelling, not oversaturating characters, and good time management. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect episode, but it did what it was supposed to do. Storylines were set up for Payback and it allowed for the PPV card to be slowly built up as we inch closer to April 30. If RAW could pull it off this week, then why have they been more consistent with putting out horrible efforts? Forget it. We all know the answer to this question. Let’s just hope next week’s go-home show can be just as good, if not better. A-.

    Photos from WWE


    Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast and The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. He dresses up in fancy suits from time to time to book matches as PWR's General Manager.

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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Report (4/17/17): When You Finally Catch A Break Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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