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Alex Rants On RAW: January 9, 2017

The second episode of RAW of 2017 didn't live up to the hype. Here's why...

Not even the Undertaker could make this entire show fully entertaining.

This week on RAW, there was nothing bad regarding the in-ring action. The matches were average, but nothing overly exciting. However, that’s not what this show was about. This episode of RAW was all about furthering storylines heading towards the 2017 Royal Rumble match, and this RAW accomplished just that.

We witnessed the return of the Undertaker (who has done a great job of showing his loyalty to SmackDown by showing up on RAW), who announced he will be participating in his first Royal Rumble match since 2009.

This was arguably the biggest and most important occurrence on this episode of RAW. As for the rest, it was more of the same. The same wrestlers in the same spots cutting the same promos and wrestling in the same matches.

The only nice change was seeing Roman Reigns lose his WWE United States Championship, which only furthers the speculation that he’ll be winning the Universal Championship in a few weeks.

Also, congratulations to Chris Jericho, who has finally won every major championship he could contend for in WWE. A wrestler of his calibre really did earn that achievement. As for what didn’t make sense, there were a few minor issues that WWE tried to conceal in its typical booking style.

But unfortunately for them, many fans like myself have eagle eyes and were/are capable of pointing out the obvious flaws that made this show less than what it could’ve been.

So without further ado, let the rant begin.

The opening match was supposed to be for the US title, but that quickly devolved into one big backstage brawl courtesy of Braun Strowman. This wasn’t problematic in itself; it’s how WWE booked Strauman after the brawl (and after his match with Seth Rollins that followed immediately afterwards) that didn’t make sense.

Basically, WWE books everyone to be afraid of weapons. Anytime a wrestler grabs a chair or a ladder, suddenly their opponents soil their pants and run away because all of a sudden there is a weapon involved.

This was on full display here tonight, when Rollins grabbed a steel chair, and all of a sudden Braun Strowman didn’t want to get in the ring to continue his assault on Rollins.

Apparently, this is kryptonite for Braun Strowman

Remember that segment involving John Cena, Chris Benoit, Paul Heyman, and a bar of soap from 2004? No? Well here it is: 

What happens around the 1-minute mark in this video is important. Heyman whacks Benoit on the head with a kendo stick, but Benoit no-sells it completely. It’s as hilarious as it is poignant: Benoit comes off as a complete tough guy that doesn’t feel any of Heyman’s attacks.

On RAW, Strowman, the evil ‘Mountain of a Man’ didn’t want to get back in the ring because he was, apparently, afraid of a steel chair. Keep in mind this is the same Braun Strowman that WWE’s pushing to be unafraid of everyone and that destroys two or even three opponents at once. 

Why should he be afraid of Rollins, a man half his size whose offence barely makes a dent in Strauman whatsoever?

Do you want to know an easy way to convince people Strauman is a monster threat? Have someone like Rollins swing a chair at Strauman’s back, only for him to no-sell it completely and laugh off the attacks. 

That’s how you make someone a believable monster. 

Throughout the show, we got a taste of WWE’s attempt to add more intrigue and drama to the show (because their existing storytelling is so devoid of inherent drama they need to rely on Michael ‘my-voice-is-generic’ Cole to add drama to the show) by having Cole make us wonder if the Undertaker would show up on RAW. 

WWE’s marketing of upcoming events is ridiculous.

Nobody controls the Undertaker...except, apparently, the marketing people

They said that the Undertaker ‘might’ be on RAW when everyone knows he has been advertised for the show since last week. And since him cancelling at the last minute would be against his loyalty to WWE, what is the point of suggesting anything other than him going to appear? It doesn’t build any intrigue for the rest of the show. 

If anything, it makes the audience less patient towards everything not related to the Undertaker and more interested in his appearance above all else.

The other thing that really shows WWE’s glaring creative problems is what they script for their wrestlers to say. Their main joy these days is to force in as many senseless pop culture references as possible, which is getting borderline irritating. 

This isn’t Archer or Family Guy, where the characters reference pop culture in a way that makes their jokes clever and actually funny. On RAW they come across as incredibly forced and unnatural, whether mentioned by the wrestlers or by the commentators.

It’s even worse when someone like Rusev, whose supposed to be an evil Bulgarian, makes Golden Globe and Emma Stone jokes. He’s supposed to be a brute from Bulgaria, not a random jokester. 

By having someone like Rusev make these jokes (also keep in mind, Charlotte made another one earlier), it emphasises the notion that the characters on RAW are all interchangeable because they’re cutting the same kinds of promos instead of cutting ones unique to their characters.

This tells you how little faith WWE has in its own wrestlers because they make 95% of the roster say the same things.

As the show progressed, we moved to the purple-ring division (sorry, the Cruiserweight division), and stereotypical British gentleman Jack Gallagher, who won his match with a running dropkick. As good as Jack Gallagher is, I find a Running dropkick to the corner to be a highly unbelievable finisher. 

I mean, every wrestler and their mother performs one variation of a dropkick or another, so what exactly is it that makes Gallagher’s dropkick so special? The commentators haven’t mentioned anything relating to his physique or his psychology that makes his variation of the dropkick special, so how are fans supposed to believe this move can win a match? 

The mind boggles.

Many had hoped 2017 would bring about a lesser emphasis on the authority on RAW. Unfortunately, those hopes are gone, as Stephanie was on full authority mode on RAW. In another article, I lambasted Stephanie McMahon’s character for using unnecessary corporate speak in her promos. 

The reason for that was that it was wholly unnecessary and took away from the atmosphere of a wrestling program.

After all, who in the WWE Universe cares about such things as ‘sensitivity training’, ‘pay grade’ and ‘performance reviews’? These are things many people have to deal with in their own work lives and the reason they turn to wrestling in the first place is to escape. 

So imagine how it must feel for someone trying to forget about that corporate nonsense to tune into RAW to find the boss talking about ‘performance reviews’? That person must certainly find that irritating because it reminds them of the things they dislike about their own lives. 

If WWE was to make any changes, it could start by cutting down on the corporate talk that no one in the audience cares about or enjoys.

Perhaps, one of the only good changes this week came from none other than Neville, who used the Nagata Lock III as his new finisher. This is a good direction for him, especially considering a Superplex isn’t a believable finisher in 2017 and any aerial move of his wouldn’t work with him as a heel.

Let’s just hope that WWE doesn’t ruin this finisher like they did several others in the past, by building it up for a few weeks and then having everyone break out of it after less than a month.

All in all, these were the only things that really stood out this week. Apart from everything that was mentioned, the show was decidedly average. This isn’t how people should be reacting to the supposed flagship WWE program, especially as we approach both the Royal Rumble and the peak of WrestleMania season.

If WWE wants to keep its Monday night audience interested, it’s going to need to do much more to keep them satisfied for the long term…especially considering this might be the Undertaker’s final year, and most people tuned in just to see him anyway.

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