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Alex Rants On: RAW, December 19, 2016

The RAW after Roadblock End of the Line felt like more of the same nonsense we saw on that PPV itself.

Tis’ the time to be cheesy

It’s the Christmas season in WWE, so you know what that means: Christmas trees on the stage, cheesy Santa Claus-related puns, and random, thrown together nonsense. Just another episode of RAW in 2016.

This is usually one of the worst periods of the year for WWE in terms of ratings. Fewer people watch the show due to holiday travel plans and shopping. As with other times when their competition is too fierce, and they expect a precipitous drop in viewership, they put in less effort which leads to a less interesting show.

Let’s see if that approach was proven correct again with the December 19th, 2016 episode. And without further ado, let the rant begin.

Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho trash-talked to open the show, bragging about their friendship and how much better they were than everyone else. This was going quite well until they started making fun of Santa Claus, because of course you need to mock jolly old Saint Nick around this time of year.

Out came Mick Foley to defend Santa Claus, while wearing one of the most Christmas-y sweaters ever seen. It’s also interesting to see how Foley has gone from a hardcore legend to that awkward dad that wears a fanny pack. Way to keep Mick cool, WWE.

Also, Jericho admits to being afraid of both spiders and heights. Apparently, he stole R-Truth’s gimmick.

It was after this that we got a rematch from Roadblock the night before. Rusev vs. Big Cass lasted all of forty seconds and consisted of nothing but punches in the corner before Cass was disqualified.

This kind of nonsensical decision-making is why WWE’s mid and lower cards are so boring; matches end so quickly, finishes are predictable, and the overall wrestling is minimal.

If I wanted to watch wrestlers talk and engage in quick brawls, I’d go back and watch one of the thousands of epic Rock segments, because that man knew how to keep the fans engaged with every move and word. These two do not.

Sasha Banks then came out to talk about the match she lost at Roadblock: End of the Line. In what seems like a recurring theme, Sasha used the same general topics of her previous promos: making history, blood, sweat and tears, etc. It wasn’t anything unique, nor did it really garner any underdog sympathy for her.

Sasha’s quickly becoming another victim of WWE’s over-scripted environment. The more they make her repeat those same words, the less value they will hold. At this rate, she’ll make history alright; as one of the two women that took part in one of the worst games of title hot-potato in WWE history.

I should also point out that Sasha actually came out with a knee brace. The fact that Sasha actually selling an injury happens so sparingly tells you just how wrong things are with WWE’s approach. If you go through a brutal beating one night and don’t even sell the injury the next night, why should the fans care about that match?

More importantly, why would fans care about re-watching that match if one of the combatants was totally fine the next night?

It was nice to finally see Nia Jax getting into a major feud with someone other than Charlotte. Jax attacking an injured and vulnerable Sasha was the right thing to do, so hopefully this is a positive thing for her going forward.

She has spent too much time squashing jobbers and less relevant women on the RAW roster, so her finally getting a rivalry with one of the top women is important. After all, they’ve been pushing her as such an unstoppable force since her main roster debut, but that idea’s hard to believe when you’re only squashing jobbers.

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Mick Foley then introduced the new RAW Tag Team Championships. Apparently, they’re now even more identical to their SmackDown equivalents, with the silver plates. The only difference now is the actual strap colour matches the show. It’s not the best design, but at least it’s better than the giant copper pennies design that defined the old belts.

It was at this point that RAW’s main story began to unfold. Apparently, Braun Strowman is still furious over Sami Zayn’s survival, and now he’s taking it out on random backstage personnel.

If Braun’s so angry, a) why did he agree to the match in the first place; b) why did he stall so much during his match, instead of trying to crush the Underdog from Underground as quickly as possible, given that Zayn was Strowman’s biggest opponent as much as he was Zayn’s; and c) why didn’t he attack Foley for putting him in this predicament in the first place?

That would’ve made much more sense, especially since Foley is more defenceless than Zayn. If Strowman’s meant to be an unstoppable monster, he shouldn’t be afraid of hurting anyone, including the authority in power.

If this were 2000, Strowman would be throwing Vince and Shane off the entrance ramp. Instead, he must back down, because God forbid the authority are made to look weaker than the wrestlers on their show.

The next match was between Noam Dar & Cedric Alexander. The Cruiserweights got a 5-minute match, with the main focus now being that both men are fighting over Alicia Fox’s affection. Yes, this actually happened. The Cruiserweights are no longer unique and are now fully under the WWE ‘control style’.

It was bad enough that the Cruiserweights were forced by Vince to subdue their style for RAW, now they’re being thrown together in the same kinds of nothing feuds that have dominated WWE for the better part of the last six years.

Hopefully, this one doesn’t last too long, as the Cruiserweights deserve better than another romance storyline; because WWE is dreadful with those).

The next segment involved what eventually became four teams arguing. That, naturally, led to the two babyface teams facing the two heel teams, because WWE’s predictable like that. Why can’t they just mix up the teams just for once?

That would be far more novel and would probably have more intrigue, than the same repeated matches we get every week.

It was great to see Cesaro scoring the pinfall. You might not think that, in a tag team, it doesn’t matter which wrestler pins/gets pinned, but it really does. And Cesaro really needs more upward momentum after stagnating for quite some time.

We then witnessed Enzo receive a letter telling him he needs to attend sensitivity training for exposing himself a few weeks ago; because that’s exactly what fans want to see.
Neville then came out and cut a promo on how he doesn’t need fans’ sympathy anymore.

The fact that a few fans were chanting ‘thank you Neville’ for his actions at Roadblock tells you how frustrated fans are with WWE’s booking approach. Even though he should be booed, fans accept him because he’s bringing a bigger name to the division. Way to neuter your existing division stars, WWE.

Neville was soon joined by Rich Swann, Brian Kendrick & T. J. Perkins. They began to brawl, and Kendrick stood tall. The reaction for this segment was poor, partly because the crowd doesn’t have any reason to care about any of these guys.

The only character that garnered any sort of sympathy was Kendrick when he claimed his title win was an all-or-nothing situation (yet he’s still employed despite losing the belt, so much for that gimmick).

Then came the first of several dreadful ‘sensitivity training segments’ that involved bad comedy, childish lines from everyone involved, and forced attempts to make us laugh. The ironic thing is, Big E got probably the biggest laugh of the night with an off-script critique of Charlotte, but WWE’s own brand of ‘WWE-approved humour’ doesn’t connect well with the audience.

It also didn’t help that none of the acting was believable. After all, what person in real life wouldn’t know how to spell ‘Jinder Mahal’?

The next match was a 14-second, one-move match, between Sin Cara and Titus O’Neil. Braun Strowman interfered and demolished both guys and threw Cara off the stage into the presents below the entrance ramp. It’s good that they’re building up Strowman as a major threat.

Too bad he made two lower card guys desperate for a story, look like jobbers in the process. 

The next segment ended up being Charlotte vs. her new rival, Bayley. I should point out that after all was said and done, Charlotte was ok with defending her belt one night after a brutal Ironman match. Way to sell the seriousness and pain from that match.

Bayley ended up pinning the champion because, of course, she did. It seems that WWE proved once more they have a singular flow: challenger beats Champion on TV, Champion retains on PPV. This leaves everyone in a perpetual holding pattern, where no one gains any major momentum.

After this contest, the sensitivity training segment reached its conclusion, which was Jinder Mahal & Rusev beating up Enzo. If the whole point of the sensitivity training was for Rusev & Jinder to beat up Enzo, why did that have to waste 10+ minutes? And why didn’t Cass make the save?

It wasn’t like this training was located somewhere far from the backstage area, so it’s not like Cass couldn’t see what was going and go in to save his friend.

In the main event of the evening, JeriKO faced Rollins & Reigns in a match that ended in disqualification, due to Braun Strowman interfering and demolishing the good guys. It was interesting to see, and it appears that, after months of squashing jobbers and multiple opponents at once, Strauman’s heading for the top of the card.

This was probably the only good booking on the show, as it demonstrates WWE’s willingness to change the main event scene around a bit.

Conclusion:

This show was disappointing. Most of the matches were either generic or void of any long-term ramifications. While we did see a few new faces in major storylines in Nia Jax, Bayley & Braun Strowman, the rest of the card felt…forgotten. The whole show lacked any real comedy, and everything scripted felt unrealistic and mechanical.

If there was ever a time when WWE needed to loosen the reins on its performers and let them cut more realistic promos, this was it.


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