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    Thursday, December 20, 2018

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (12/17/18): A McMahon Homecoming

    Before we begin, I'd like to send my sincerest apologies to everyone reading this for missing the last two weeks of RAW, having deprived you of the Gift of Shawarma Joe (that works if you pronounce "Shawarma" in two syllables): Drink it in, maaan! Outdated reference aside, looks like I'm a McMahon now. I came back this week, good old Vince came back this week... That pretty much means I'm a McMahon, right? Is Triple H considered a McMahon? I don't want to get into that. What I want to get into is whether this episode inspired a fresh start for RAW. Let's begin!

    Although Vince McMahon allegedly did not even want to return to television, he did so here with daughter Stephanie, son Shane, and NXT daddy Triple H to tell everyone what they already know. This four horsepeople of the creative apocalypse talked about a fresh start, only to be interrupted by boo-magnet Baron Corbin, who had a pretty good argument with how he lost his permanent RAW GM opportunity at TLC. Corbin wanted another chance (one more match!) and the McMahons considered it despite the crowd booing, which was a bad omen for the so-called "fresh start." Corbin got his chance through a match against Kurt Angle— I mean a handicap match against Angle, RAW Tag Team Champions Glorious Gable, and Apollo Crews— I mean a No Disqualifications match against those same four guys. Oh, and Heath Slater was the referee.

    The opening segment was interesting because, like the Seth Rollins/Baron Corbin interaction from last week wherein Seth talked about RAW's bad ratings and blamed it all on Corbin, this match broke the fourth wall in a way that WWE normally doesn't. I mean, WWE doesn't have their wrestlers talk about ratings in the ring that much, even though they occasionally have weird plugs for merch and promos. That said, I'm not quite sure if this will actually lead to anything that'll solve the ratings problem. Aren't these four people the exact same four people who have been in creative control for years now? What changes? They'll listen to the fans more? Really? 

    I don't know if that'll work because most of the things fans want don't actually work. We want one guy to go over and then we don't after a while. We want something to happen but rarely really consider the other aspects of booking outside of pitting two great talents together. Hell, I want Drew McIntyre to become Universal Champion but I've got no long-term plans for his sustainability as a champion. Triple H has been doing great with NXT and NXT UK, but WWE's weekly episodic and world-touring programs are a different beast entirely.

    Corbin getting beat up by everyone was fun, though. It's not fair, but the villain getting punished for all his wrongdoings doesn't happen outside of fiction like this. Besides, this wraps up the whole Angle/Corbin power struggle and gives Apollo something to do so everyone won't forget about him for a while. Triple H coming out to conveniently remember it was a handicap match was hilarious, especially when he called out his NXT guys—Crews, Gable, and his son Bobby—to beat up his other NXT guy. Did Shane need to add that it was a No Disqualification match? Not necessarily. Slater could've just turned his back throughout the chairs assault but I guess the crowd needed to get pumped up. Why didn't Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley come out for the save, though? There really is no honor among jacked-up thieves.

    I am 100% into Dean Ambrose's current aesthetics. As a comic book fan, he's giving me Bane vibes. I don't know if it's just him wearing that gas mask or if it's that jacket he's wearing—heck it may even be his security wearing gas masks like proper comic book villain henchmen—whatever it is, I am all for it. Another thing I'm all for is Tyler Breeze answering Dean's Open Challenge. Of course, Ambrose wasn't doing it out of the goodness of his heart or out of a competitive spirit or out of generosity regarding title opportunities. Dean just wanted Seth to come out so he can rub his title win in his former Shield brother's face. 

    Breeze taking that opportunity for himself as his Prince Pretty persona was a pleasant surprise, especially since this was his second open challenge bout in a span of days. A week ago, Tyler unexpectedly showed up in NXT to answer Ricochet's NXT North American Championship. This was a pretty good match, but if Breeze was given more time to showcase his talents, then this could've been a whole lot better. Seth attacking Dean after the match, having pretended to be part of his security detail, reminded me of the numerous times Dean has done the same to The Miz and Chris Jericho. Not a bad callback and a fitting assault from The Architect.

    At TLC, RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey cost former SmackDown Women's Champion Becky Lynch her title, while also making Charlotte pay for The Queen's brutal assault during their Survivor Series match. While I'm cool with Asuka becoming SmackDown Women's Champion, I can't say the same for Rousey's interference in that match. It was cheap and unnecessary, but then again, it pretty much sets up a Triple Threat involving The Baddest Woman on The Planet, The Queen, and The Man. That's a lot of the article "the" in one sentence. 

    Of course, since Lynch is so OP in the charisma department, Ronda's fans seem to have turned on her. That was probably not that great of a move, but to be fair, the words "bad reputation" are in her theme song. Doing an open challenge for the women's title, though? That was a pretty bold move. Because Breeze answered Dean's earlier open challenge, I was actually curious whether either Becky or Charlotte would come out and take Ronda's head off. I expected too much. An 8-woman gauntlet match for a title shot next week wasn't bad development, though. Surprisingly, and maybe a few weeks too late, Natalya outlasted everyone and got herself a pretty tame and respectful meet-and-greet with the champ, the woman she's going to face for the title. The Anvil would be proud.

    RAW REVIEW: Was this week a promising fresh start for the RAW brand? It's hard, or maybe more appropriately, too early to say. I like how The Revival finally got their rightful place in the tag team division, we got teased with NXT imports and two Canadian returns, and Dana got to show her stuff in the main event. Tyler Breeze going back to his Prince Pretty persona while his Fashion Police tag team partner heals up isn't a bad thing either. This whole shake-up could actually lead to something interesting. Unfortunately, I've been watching this product since grade school and I can't say I'm 100% confident things will really change. Watch out for how the NXT imports get handled. That could be a clue. I'm giving this week's RAW a B for "Back in (Best for) Business!" 

    Quick Hitters:
    • Ah, talk about fresh start! Finally, after weeks of horrendous booking, The Revival finally comes out on top, beating AOP-pee, The B-Team, and The Lucha House Party. Eliminating automatic rematches for former champions was a bold move. Doing the same to that terrible Lucha House Rules schtick was better. This was a pretty fun match, in my opinion, and a long overdue reward for The Revival. That team has been amazing at tag team competition since day one, and thankfully, this might be the start they need to finally take their place on top. Roode and Gable might be glorious, but The Revival is forever.
    • I'm a fan of both Finn Bálor and Drew McIntyre, but truth be told, I wasn't a fan of Bálor going over McIntyre at TLC and Dolph Ziggler going over McIntyre at the last RAW. I mean, I get it. Having both Balor and Ziggler go over McIntyre was sort of unpredictable and McIntyre now has more reason to beat these two up for quite some time—until Brock Lesnar finally stops taking the Universal Championship hostage. I don't know, I guess I just think it's too early for McIntyre to lose matches in a row? Although, if he comes out on top of Bálor and Ziggler to end the feud before ascending to the main title picture, that just might work.
    • Elias' feud with Bobby Lashley and his son continues, so I guess "fresh start" doesn't apply here. Lashley needs to stop mooning people. It's neither funny nor offensive. It's just dumb. Bobby could be breaking fools, dominating everyone sent out to face him, with Rush providing the great heel mic work he's been doing so far. At least Elias seems to be getting better here. He seems more interesting and less of a comedic act now.
    • Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens returning would be great for RAW. It probably won't be great for them, but I've missed my second favorite Canadian pair of best friends (Edge and Christian come first, of course!). Zayn and Owens are beating Roode and Gable for the tag team titles, aren't they? I mean, I hope The Revival gets at least a run, but El Steenerico has always been entertaining. Sigh.
    • Oh, boy. We're getting a bunch of NXT wrestlers, but somehow, I'm more concerned than excited. Lacey Evans, Lars Sullivan, Heavy Machinery, and Nikki Cross would be great additions to either RAW or SmackDown, but from the way SAnitY has been booked since they crossed over, I am a little worried that these great talents will be following in those footsteps, relegated as nothing more than passing fancies or substitutes, contingencies for when a multi-person match is needed. I hope that isn't the case because these five are great characters in their own right.
    • Doing away with those automatic rematch clauses deposed champions always invoke seems to me like a double-edged sword. On one hand, that means we're getting new championship feuds every time someone loses their title. If Brock Lesnar loses the Universal Championship to Braun Strowman, then that means we may get Strowman versus Drew McIntyre right away, with Lesnar having to find some other way to get back into the main event title picture. On the other hand, does this mean Seth Rollins' current feud with Dean Ambrose will no longer be for the Intercontinental Championship and that a new challenger has to wait on the sidelines while Ambrose deals with Rollins before he can lay claim to his right to a title match? Nah, Seth's probably just going to win a Fatal Four-way No. 1 Contender's match against Finn Bálor, McIntyre, and Dolph Ziggler because Shield brother versus Shield brother is forever. Oh, brother.
    Images from WWE


    Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW & NXT UK for Smark Henry. He has been an avid professional wrestling fan since grade school. These reviews are as close to professional wrestling as he can get. His first and longest-used WWE CAW was inspired by the Hart Foundation.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (12/17/18): A McMahon Homecoming Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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