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    Wednesday, February 27, 2019

    The Smark Henry RAW Review (2/25/19): Batista Pulled a Captain Marvel

    Last week, I said something along the lines of the previous RAW arguably being the best RAW in recent memory. Well, this week, I'm saying the same thing again: This week's RAW might just be the best RAW in recent memory. With an influx of veteran producers who were once from another promotion, WWE seems to be stepping up its game in terms of storylines. Can they continue their streak, though? Or will they get lazy and comfortable again once AEW finally reveals itself to be no more than a clothing company? DM me your hatemail for that comment after we go through the stuff that made RAW RAWesome this week (as well as the stuff that wasn't really that good).

    First up, the Big Dawg is back on WWE programming after beating the hell out of leukemia. He's apparently in remission now and he's cleared to compete, saving Dean Ambrose from being ganged up on by McCorbley and Elias later in the show, but not without help from his tinier but definitely more entertaining substitute in Seth Rollins. 

    Remember when Dean backstabbed Seth and took the Intercontinental title from him? Seth probably does but Roman's here, so whatever. Does this mean The Shield will reform for the nth time? Hoo, boy, that's going to be a disappointing step back. Then again, it could be the last if Dean is indeed leaving the company.

    While I, for one, am 100% glad that Roman Reigns is back to doing what he loves the most, having risen above a debilitating disease like leukemia, I'm a bit wary that he'll get shoehorned in the main event spot right away. Hopefully, they let him stay outside of the title picture for quite some time since Seth is already going one-on-one against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. Roman could do well with a slower and more natural pacing to his eventual rise to the top. He seemed to suggest that the latter scenario could take place, but I don't really have that much faith in Vince anymore. He has a thing for Roman and, while I can see why, it's very unhealthy for WWE's fanbase.

    Besides, it's clear here that everyone can appreciate Roman Reigns: he's a likable person and character, a pretty good locker room leader according to various WWE Superdtars, and a decent wrestler. The only thing that's holding him back, ruining his momentum every chance it gets, is bad booking. 

    No one needs to force Roman on people because Roman can get himself over on his own. Just look at the guy. Clearly, he was built for the spotlight. That, however, doesn't mean he always needs to be in the main event. We can have many spotlights, right? How about the 100 or so great talents in the WWE right now?

    Speaking of walking out, after Becky Lynch interrupted Ronda Rousey's tag match with her bestie Natalya against the Riott Squad, Rousey faced off with Stephanie McMahon in a bid to get Becky reinstated because she wants to fight the best. Ouch. That probably broke Natalya's heart on her way back up the ramp. 

    Stephanie—seemingly on the same page with her dad now even though she seemed like she wasn't in on the Charlotte Flair substitution for the WrestleMania main event (it's still my main event, get the heck away from that spotlight, Roman)—denied Ronda her wish because she's her boss and they're not really friends, which was probably why Ronda initially called Vince out and looked disappointed when his daughter came out instead. 

    Is this another case of Stephanie randomly inserting herself in the biggest storyline of the women's division to date? That seems to me like a purely debatable case. Stephanie does fit here better than Vince, considering that most of the stuff Vince did with his female talent back in the day still haunts me.

    To be honest, I wasn't even into the women's tag match because I felt like I've seen this a bazillion times. Becky Lynch limping her way into the arena to beat Natalya up with her crutch made things interesting, especially when she started whaling on Ronda, leading to officials and security having to separate them. I guess Becky's in jail now? Talk about The Man taking it to The Man.

    Once Becky was taken away, though, I found myself less than excited about what happened next. On paper, Ronda wanting to face Lynch one-on-one—even compromising to defending her title in a triple threat situation before leaving the title in the ring in an act of protest—would have been really cool. However, Ronda's still not there when it comes to her promos, and it really let this entire segment down. This could've been a really awesome and intriguing storyline development but Rousey's execution just couldn't get me there.

    The entire show was actually built around Ric Flair's 70th birthday celebration, with several legends and Hall of Famers showing up here and there to commemorate Flair's attempt to outlast a certain Filipino politician. I'm not naming names but we both know who came to your mind first. That said, it was great to see Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and even Stone Cold Steve Austin, who showed up via video. Even Sting was there. 

    While the RAW roster was made to wait on the stage area, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon unveiled a special custom-made WWE World Heavyweight Championship with legends surrounding them as a gift to the 16-time world champion. Flair's music hit but he was nowhere to be found. Instead, cameras cut to Batista backstage who gave Ric the Gift of Jericho a backstage assault, dragging him along the floor out of his dressing room. This prompted Triple H, and only Triple H for some reason, to run to the back to check on Ric Flair.

    Here's the thing: This was, in my opinion, one of the best surprises in recent memory. With Randy Orton nowhere to be found, I thought Batista wouldn't be around either. Both men are sort of young and the rest of Flair's guests were older gentlemen. The actual supposed celebration wasn't actually as grand as I had thought, too, considering this was Ric Flair's 70th birthday celebration, but that wasn't really a big deal. 

    Initially, this could've turned into Becky Lynch ruining Ric Flair's celebration to taunt Charlotte Flair but I suppose Batista doing the honors was a great set-up for what could be his very last match in the WWE. Just one question, though: the entire RAW roster was on the stage and no one else was concerned enough about Ric to run to his aid? I laughed when Braun just stood there, looking around him. I guess he doesn't beat up fellow Hollywood actors, huh?

    More importantly, though, where the heck was Charlotte Flair? What a terrible daughter, missing her father's 70th birthday celebration. How rude.   

    RAW REVIEW: This week's RAW was pretty packed in terms of appearances, though that was mostly because of Ric Flair's 70th birthday celebration. Awkwardly, both Randy Orton and Charlotte Flair, of all people, weren't around. Still, we had Aleister Black and Ricochet teaming together, Finn Bálor versus Lio Rush for the Intercontinental Championship, the next chapter in Ronda Rousey and the limping Lynch, and the returning Roman Reigns to keep us entertained from beginning to end. Well, mostly. RAW still had a few kinks here and there, but it was generally a good show. I don't know about you but I was feeling new energy emanating from this week's RAW. Those new producers are really trying, huh? I'm giving this week's RAW a B for "Batista just killed Ric Flair." 

    Quick Hitters:
    • There's actually a reason why Aleister Black and Ricochet are a team but I'm not sure if RAW even cares what's happening (or going to happen *hinthint*) over at NXT, so I'll just leave it at that. While their tag team victory over The Revival made both these awesome competitors look good, it definitely continued to lower the stock of the RAW Tag Team Champions. Essentially, RAW's best tag team lost to a makeshift team of two great singles stars, which pretty much makes it seem like the tag team division will always be inferior compared to singles competition. Hey, it seems two singles stars as a team will always trump two veteran tag team specialists. I can't even.
    • Two people interrupted Elias this week and it was (1) Lacey Evans, who had nothing better to do than to sashay down the ramp for God knows why and (2) Dean Ambrose who's a good guy again (because Roman's back, duh) and wants a No Disqualification rematch with Drew McIntyre. Dean, what is you doin?! I guess Elias is back to being a walking copy-and-paste segment again while Dean's strange "developments" continue with Roman and Seth saving him from McCorbleyias. That's McIntyre, Corbin, Lashley, and Elias, most likely the latest mash-up that the nth reunion of The Shield will destroy. Sigh. Drew McIntyre deserves better than this.
    • A Moment of Bliss still needs a lot of work, but now Alexa Bliss is... horny? I thought it was strange when she was salivating over sexy mute EC3 a while back but she did the same here with the new Intercontinental Champion, Finn Bálor. I laughed out loud when Bliss delivered her "Show me your abs and I'll show you my...," line, mostly because Corey Graves lost it as Lio Rush interrupted her. The succeeding title match between Finn and Lio made up for the weirdness that was A Moment of Bliss, even though I wasn't sold on Lio as a threat to Finn's title reign. Still, I love me some Rush in action, so I was all in for this.
    • After yelling at Lio Rush backstage, Bobby Lashley faced Braun Strowman, or so we thought. The two allies attacked Braun before the bell could even ring but Braun turned the tables on them. Lio's going to get some more yelling next week, though to be fair, Bobby needed Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre to take down Braun last time. So I'm not sure if he's just that dumb or he actually forgot that there was no way in hell Braun was going to just lie down for him and Rush. Braun tips trucks over, man. How could anyone even forget that? Sigh.
    • Kurt Angle finally won a singles match after answering Jinder Mahal's open challenge after Mahal dissed Ric Flair. Mahal tapped out and Angle hit both Singh Brothers—who could be a great tag team, mind you—with German suplexes. Hey, remember when Mahal was WWE Champion? Okay. I don't know why this had to happen but it happened.
    • Bayley just beat Nia Jax in singles action but the WWE Women's Tag Team Champions will still be defending at Fastlane against everyone's least liked pairing. There's an argument to be made that Jax's loss here would make the challengers look bad but does anyone really think BaySash would be losing their titles in their first defense? That's just absurd, almost as absurd as Jax and Tamina being the first challengers, considering they didn't even make the final two at Elimination Chamber. Ugh. Still, the match was pretty decent. Some would say it was surprising that Bayley beat Jax, and maybe if it is if you consider how Bayley has been booked as of late. But Bayley does have the gold Jax wants, so that gives her a +100 bonus in victory points. Absurd.
    • Oh, and Heavy Machinery and The Ascension had a confrontation backstage, which was somewhat hilarious. I'm guessing they're facing each other next week. Otis is so good, though!
    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. Happy birthday, Ric.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Review (2/25/19): Batista Pulled a Captain Marvel Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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