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    Wednesday, January 16, 2019

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (1/15/19): New Championships, New Champion, New Challenger

    Holy heck, did Vince McMahon somehow read last week's review or is WWE just finally paying attention to their fans? We had a big Royal Rumble change this week, something we've all probably been praying for, as well as NXT "calls-up" making their actual appearances after weeks and weeks of the same vignettes, we got to see the debut of new titles, and even saw a new champion get crowned. Man, this week certainly had twists and turns a-plenty, and I can't say I didn't like them. I mean, I didn't hate them as much as I hate my unstable Internet connection. That's a big win in itself.

    If I didn't pay attention to commentary during this show, I would've lost my sanity (get it?) at Nikki Cross making her RAW debut and apparently getting separated from her SAnitY brethren. Thankfully, all of the NXT "call-ups" will apparently also appear on SmackDown this week, so everyone who doesn't watch NXT (your loss, fam) can get a good look at them. The actual "debut" match also featuring Bayley and Natalya, who were arguing backstage in defense of their respective best friends just minutes ago before getting challenged to this match by the Riott Squad, was really fun. Nikki looked awesome here, even though she didn't get the pin. This was obviously the best showing of the NXT "call-ups" on this week's RAW

    I've got to admit, I do love me some singles Nikki Cross, but maybe not that far from Eric Young, Killian Dain, and Alexander Wolfe. Nikki getting left behind when the boys moved to SmackDown was heart-breaking, but she did prove herself capable of surviving on her own. These four are like a family or a deck of cards. It doesn't feel right if they get separated. Maybe bring SAnitY to RAW after WrestleMania? The stable is the complete package, after all: RAW would get a women's division competitor in Nikki Cross, tag team division competitors in Alexander Wolfe and Eric Young, and a pretty formidable Intercontinental Championship competitor in Killian Dain. It's not like SmackDown's using those boys properly, anyway.

    Speaking of the Intercontinental Championship, Bobby Lashley defeated both Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to become the new champ?! This wasn't exactly what I had in mind last week when I said Lashley should start dominating people. This is so much better! Not only does this turn Lashley into an actual force to be reckoned with, but it also makes Lio Rush a pretty smart manager. 

    Rollins loses nothing here. If anything, he gains the position of becoming the potential Royal Rumble winner and—if Finn can't do it—Brock Lesnar's slayer. Doesn't Kingslayer versus Demon King for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania sound better? Book it, Vince! 

    Sadly, I have no idea where Ambrose goes from here. Maybe an extended feud with Rollins? We all know Kevin Owens and/or Sami Zayn will be feuding with Lashley for that title when they return, right? After all, Lashley was the one who took them out.

    Yes, Alexa Bliss was shown semi-topless during that awkward, weird, and completely unnecessary backstage segment, unlike Mandy Rose's "towel" appearance on last week's SmackDown Live. A friend pointed out that maybe they were going for an Attitude Era callback, but would that even be a good thing for female wrestlers? Yes, Paul Heyman is still a maestro on the microphone, though it's a little hard to hype Brock Lesnar's Universal Championship defense at the Royal Rumble when no one's supposed to know who's replacing Braun Strowman in that match. One opponent out of four possible candidates? Heyman did his best, reminding us of John Cena's history with Brock and how Drew McIntyre is amazing. Oh, and yes, I'm 100% stoked for the Women's Tag Team Championships. They are so gorgeous, so perfect, so IIconic

    I, too, am an Otis Dozovic for those titles (nice save, Renee). That was a pretty hilarious appearance, I'm not going to lie, even though I had no idea what the heck they were trying to do with the charismatic Otis here. Was he drawn out from the back by the shiny tag titles? Was he mystified by the sight of a topless Bliss (seriously, why the heck was that a thing?) that he had to come out to personally witness her beauty? Whatever the case was, Tucker Knight and some officials came out to deal with this confusing ending. Heavy Machinery should be better on RAW, considering SmackDown's tag team division is already stacked. Besides, they already look like they were home during this segment.

    It's just a little disheartening to note that one of the more obvious differences between Alexa Bliss' A Moment of Bliss and the other talk shows before it—The Highlight Reel, The Peep Show, The Cutting Edge, among others—is that the host seems to be downplayed here. At least for the past two weeks that rings true. Alexa might have her (last) name on this show, but outside of the aesthetics, it's pretty much just a sit-down version of backstage interviews held by Kayla Braxton or Dasha Fuentes who are both heavily regarded as interchangeable and worst of all forgettable during said interviews. 

    Edge, Christian, and Chris Jericho always had their fair share of the spotlight during their shows, even if the main storyline exists outside of their participation. At the very least, the host always ended up contributing more than just questions anyone else could read off cue cards. Alexa here has yet to do that. Maybe it's her injury, the fact that she's yet to be cleared for taking bumps, but whatever it is, the show needs changes to make it more engaging.

    Wait, so Mr. McMahon, who wanted to see the "real" AJ Styles and was fine with getting punched in the face for that, wasn't cool with the best version of Braun Strowman, The Monster Among Men, screaming and wrecking stuff backstage? Granted that it was his limo, couldn't Vince just get a new one? Braun being this savage would make him more money, so I'm not sure this whole stripping him of the title thing makes sense. Braun's still not 100% healthy? But he just flipped a limo? Eh. At least we're not getting Brock versus Braun again.

    Without a clear contender for the Universal Champion at Royal Rumble, Vince made his way to the ring to announce something. That Beast versus Streak pitch by Curt Hawkins would be cool for next week, but EC3 versus Brock could be way better at another PPV. John Cena interrupting Vince was both a surprise and, well, somewhat expected. He's John Cena, after all, and he does this all the time. Drew McIntyre coming out to interrupt Cena was amazing. Baron Corbin's logic wasn't that bad, but from those reactions, having him face Brock at the Royal Rumble would be bad. Finally, the confrontation between Finn and Vince was epic. There's a lot of truth in that exchange of words. McIntyre being the last man standing here was the best choice and gave me a better "Chosen One" callback between himself and Vince.

    While the Fatal Four-way No. 1 Contender's match was all set, Jinder Mahal ambushed Vince backstage and kissed his butt so good, he ended up getting an opportunity to take Finn's spot in that match. All he had to do was beat Finn. Easy. The match itself wasn't that special but it did give Finn's underdog schtick more weight. Him having to defend his spot from another jacked-up dude, while the rest of his main-event competition, a bunch of jacked-up dudes, got free passes was a great story. Finn having to fight many "beefs" made me salivate—that or I was just really hungry.

    An even greater story? Finn surviving Corbin, McIntyre, and even pinning Cena to get the title opportunity at the Royal Rumble. Cena's post-match speech about him believing in Finn, even if Vince did not, was a great touch. Finn's push is definitely real. Fingers crossed The Demon King defeats The Beast Incarnate at the Royal Rumble. I'd much rather have The Demon King versus The Kingslayer at WrestleMania, truth be told. A guy can dream.

    RAW REVIEW: From Nikki Cross being Nikki Cross to the Women's Tag Team Championships being announced, to Bobby Lashley becoming the new Intercontinental Champion, to Finn Bálor becoming the new No. 1 Contender for the Universal Championship at Royal Rumble, there was a lot to like about this week's RAW. I wasn't a fan of that Alexa Bliss backstage segment (what was that even for?) or RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks' post-match interview (ugh), but I'm still giving this week's RAW a B for "Bálor Club fo-fo-fo life!" 

    Quick Hitters:
    • Finally, The Revival beat The Lucha House Party, who have been cheating them out of victories with those ridiculous Lucha House rules by... cheating. Where was LHP's fourth member, Juan Cena?! Well, at least those tactics work better for the heels than the faces. Oh, no... Are they going to start feuding again? They better not. The Revival still needs to out-cheat the RAW Tag Team Champions, Glorious Gable, who weren't on this week's show probably because Chad Gable got his robe stuck in an elevator or something. Man, RAW's tag team division is filled with cheaters. 
    • After last week's botchamania highlight reel between Sasha Banks and Nia Jax, we got a tag team match this week with RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey and Tamina being added to the mix. Thank Samoa for those tag team titles because Tamina just doesn't feel like a thing at the moment. The post-match interview segment with champion and challenger held promise but Rousey obviously fares better threatening scowls than apologizing to friends. This feels like just another stop on the road to that Horsewomen versus Horsewomen rumored clash at WrestleMania. It's probably too early, but as long as Becky Lynch makes one of them tap at the grandest stage, am I right?
    • EC3 and Lacey Evans also appeared in this week's RAW during separate backstage segments and without uttering a single word. Lars Sullivan, however, was nowhere to be found. That doesn't sound promising for this trio, though I honestly hope Lars feels better soon after that rumored anxiety attack. I've been there. It's not a good place to be. Make sure to check this week's SmackDown, I know you will, to see these NXT "call-ups" in action...or backstage... again. Sans Lars maybe. Get well soon, man.
    • Glass is showing this Friday in the U.S., and I wouldn't have known about that, or needed to, if the commentary team hadn't been plugging the movie every other segment. I went in looking forward to that movie but this week's RAW had me leaving a little hesitant. Too many references, Michael Cole.
    • Jerry Lawler was part of that backstage segment involving the likes of Curt Hawkins, Heath Slater, Rhyno, and EC3, among others, that was mostly shown to emphasize how everyone wants a title shot against Brock Lesnar, only for Vince to not even mention any of it during his in-ring promo. GG EZ, guys. 
    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. He played with Nikki Cross one time and was never seen or heard from for one whole year.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (1/15/19): New Championships, New Champion, New Challenger Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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