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Alex Rants On: RAW, February 13, 2017

This week's RAW actually had some good stuff, but it was balanced by some really dreadful promos and missing logic as well...

Samoa Joe’s expression here summed up how most of the audience felt for 2/3 of this show.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our latest rant on RAW. The program was held in Las Vegas this week, so you were sure to get a lot of references to gambling, casinos and high-stakes throughout the show.

I’m actually surprised we didn’t get the token ‘RAW Roulette’ wheel that was brought out for such shows in the past because you know how much Vince loves to make certain shows feel ‘special’, and not in a good way.

All in all, this show will be remembered for two things (depending on how long your memory is): the sudden and bitter end of one of the best on-screen friendships in recent memory, and a great main event match complete with an emotional closing.

The problem was, it took a VERY long time for us to reach that point, with the first hour and a half dragging on for what seemed like an eternity.

So without further ado, let the rant begin.

We opened RAW with Stephanie McMahon because it’s RAW and the writers feel the need to put their most important character on during the opening segment. It was an average promo that led to some matches being booked for later on the show because apparently, the powers-that-be do not have the entire card booked before the show starts.

Talk about incompetence.

Light-hearted joke aside, I’m not sure what the purpose of this promo was. Stephanie started acting like a babyface, even though she’s the most clear-cut heel on the roster. Why would she be trying to reduce the boos directed at her?

Of the many problems with Stephanie McMahon, this is one she shouldn’t have, but lo and behold, she has this one too. She’s trying to reduce the fan hate directed at her character, even though it’s what her character’s supposed to be doing.

What is the purpose of this?

So that her children don’t cry because their mom is being booed while on TV? So that she can satisfy her own gargantuan ego by getting people to cheer and boo her, thereby making her the center of attention? As of this writing, there are no clear-cut answers for this madness, but unless the writing changes dramatically, RAW is stuck with more of contradictory Stephanie for years to come…unfortunately.

In the first match of the show, we saw just how little Vince cares about anyone else other than his hand-picked favourites. It took Gallows & Anderson almost a full calendar year to win the RAW Tag Team Championships, and the whole time they’ve had to work extra hard to maintain any credibility as a team.

Vince took another chunk of that credibility away when Roman Reigns essentially defeated both of them singlehandedly. Sure, he won by disqualification, but he added insult to injury by beating both of them in the post-match beatdown. How are these guys, and by extension the rest of the tag team division, supposed to be taken seriously?

It got much worse shortly thereafter, as Bo Dallas was destroyed in one move. All it took was one SOS/Ranhei from Kofi Kingston to put him away. The suicide dive he executed out of the ring barely even connected on Dallas, so he was obviously fresh for this ‘match’. Yet WWE still had him lose in seconds. How does this help him in any way?

If anything, it makes him look like a complete chump that the weakest of wrestlers could defeat. There’s little chance of him recovering from stuff like this, barring a major gimmick change, which isn’t likely, given WWE’s so-called creativity.

Again, there was absolutely no crowd noise for the first Cruiserweight match. The fans didn’t care about anything in this match. Even when Noam Dar went for the typical ‘heel gloats in front of the crowd’ spot, which is meant to get boos there was nary a sound from anyone attending live.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Come on, WWE, you have a highly-sophisticated and probably grossly expensive production truck with state-of-the-art noise manipulation technology. If you can silence the deafening boos that follow Roman Reigns like bad body odour, you can increase crowd volume to sound like they’re actually watching this match, not using it as a bathroom break.

All those knobs and buttons, and not one of them can make a Roman Reigns promo sound exciting.

After months of hype with these Emmalina promos, she finally debuted, cut one promo, and then disappeared. They had an opportunity to make something even slightly memorable with this garbage, instead, they had her cut one promo and then she vanished.

The implication was that the whole Emmalina thing wasn’t even happening, and she was reverting to the Emma of old. So what was the point of all of these promos? To waste WWE production time and money and to troll the audience? That seems like the likely answer.

Samoa Joe cut a great promo to make him feel like a threat, but there was still a problem with this one. It was like every ‘serious sit-down promo’ that journalist Michael Cole has been involved with. It takes a serious tone, and the other person speaks in more intimidating tones.

But that’s it; just speaking. No action or memorable confrontation. Not even any intimidation.

Remember when Mankind cut that masterful promo and then put the Mandible Claw on poor Jim Ross?

Or better yet, when Kane set Jim Ross on fire because he was under the impression that he was being mocked?

In both of these cases (and especially in the latter one), the monster character was presented as a legitimately dangerous threat that made people feel uncomfortable. Mankind attacked JR, causing several people to attend to him once Mankind lessened his grip.

Kane’s threats and overall aura of danger were both so believable that even ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, the man that didn’t fear anything, was afraid for his friend JR’s life. He sold Kane setting Ross on fire like it was the real thing. His vocal intonations and facial expressions were those of a concerned man afraid of what this monster would do.

Ever since Samoa Joe debuted, the overall response from the roster has been lukewarm, at best. Roman Reigns didn’t even care that Joe was on the roster, the Authority weren’t afraid of the monster they had in their midst (imagine if they no-sold Kane when he first debuted on the main roster), and Cole wasn’t concerned about being inches away from the supposed Destroyer whatsoever.

This segment was begging for some kind of violence on Joe’s part, just to prove a point. But no, the non-wrestlers cannot be made to look like weaklings in front of the wrestlers. Because the ever-present fine or lawsuit for hitting someone that’s not a wrestler has to hang omnipresent in the atmosphere of RAW.

No wonder fewer people care about RAW. They know that the wrestlers aren’t really all-powerful or capable of overcoming any odds because the ‘real world’ of lawsuits, fines and suspensions looms over them.

The only silver lining for this segment was that Joe assaulted Sami Zayn for attempting to insult him. With so little time before WrestleMania and the card looking incomplete, they need as much time as possible to build up everyone they can into realistic threats.

This is something that should’ve either happened earlier or been more severe. If WWE’s putting all of their eggs in the Samoa Joe basket, they might as well make that basket look as good as possible before WrestleMania.

At least the second Cruiserweight match this week got some reactions from the audience, as they were clearly into Akira Tozawa. Even if his incessant shouting is kind of repetitive, at least it’s a mechanism through which the audience can get invested in his matches.

Two of the greatest Canadians alive today entered the ring next for what ended up being a spectaular segment.

Then, we got the segment that had been hyped throughout the entire show: the so-called Festival of Friendship. It started off campy and incredibly cheesy. At times, it even seemed a little too ridiculous, even for RAW. But it was done perfectly.

For the first time in months or even years, WWE finally booked something perfectly. The Owens-Jericho friendship was a slow-burning turn that inched its way towards its inevitable conclusion with each passing week. But as it did so, something happened. The chemistry between Owens and Jericho and the cheesiness of their promos were too good to pass up.

So when the turn finally happened, and Owens attacked Jericho, many people, myself included, had fallen for the story hook, line, and sinker. You felt genuine sympathy for Jericho for being betrayed like that by a man whom he considered his best friend. No, his brother.

He even said that this [2016-2017] was the best year of his life. I’m not even sure if that was scripted; it sounded like a shoot line, which wouldn’t be surprising given how great Jericho was this past year. And Owens turned on him in a vicious manner. That accomplished something important: it made people that would normally cheer Owens boo him like a true heel.

Of course, this turn made sense. Jericho accepted Goldberg’s challenge on Owens’ behalf, effectively putting Owens’ title reign in severe jeopardy. Naturally, Owens should’ve been rightfully angry, but instead of imploding then and there, he lured Jericho into a trap and deceived him in a huge way.

For the first time in a while, I can honestly say…well done, WWE. You’ve done a great job with this storyline, and made people want to see Owens lose, because of how he betrayed such a likeable and loyal friend that was Chris Jericho.

This will probably go down as one of the best turns in years, on the same level as Seth Rollins’ Shield betrayal. One can only hope this will lead to a great match for both men at WrestleMania after this deception.

I did not make this, but whoever did, deserves a medal for being incredibly accurate

The show closed with an excellent match between Bayley and Charlotte for the RAW Women’s Championship. It was full of dramatic near-falls and high-risk moves that really amplified how much the Championship meant to both women.

Alas, the endless game of Hot Potato continued once more, as Charlotte lost the belt on RAW again. It’s devaluing the title even further if the champions keep switching on such a regular basis. Yes, many women are fighting over the belt, and the fact that the belt is being defended in the main event of RAW is also a plus.

But again, why bother carrying the belt at all, if you’re going to lose it in less than two months anyway? The belt might as well stay in the middle of the ring, with the champions playing a never-ending game of Rock, Paper, Scissors over who gets to carry it to the next town.

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