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Alex Rants on RAW, March 13, 2017

What worked on this week's episode of RAW and what could've been so much better.


This week’s episode was memorable for only one thing, and even then they failed to make it work to its full potential.

WWE has started to promote WrestleMania as some kind of ‘ultimate thrill ride’. The commercials they’re airing features sound samples of (mostly) excited-sounding kids looking forward to WrestleMania, with the actual rollercoaster ride starting at WrestleMania itself.

So does that mean that the Road to WrestleMania is meant to be that slow climb that gradually leads you up to the top of the coaster before that exciting drop? It sure seems that way, given this week’s episode of RAW.

This is supposed to be the most exciting time of the year for the WWE. The storylines are supposed to be at their finest, the drama is meant to be the most exciting, and the anticipation for WrestleMania should be at a fever pitch.

In reality, RAW is losing to SmackDown in every conceivable way, and a major reason for that was shown in the main event segment of the show.

So without further ado, let the rant begin.


Do you want to know the best way to completely subdue an excited audience? By segueing from a fun, dramatic and memorable promo by Paul Heyman to Stephanie McMahon talking in corporate-speak. This segment served only one purpose: to tell the audience that Stephanie is a smart businesswoman.

Yes, Stephanie, we get it, you’re a businesswoman. But what does this have to with anything else? The language she used was completely deflating and so out-of-place on a wrestling show that it killed the audience’s mood almost instantly.

When you hear Steph using words like ‘personal growth’ and ‘pay grade’, they’re subliminal messages for you to change the channel
 

WWE’s obsession with sounding like a business seems incredibly off-putting. They appear to be trying too hard to sound like evil businesspeople, except they’re going about it the wrong way. Why can’t Stephanie, and to a lesser extent Triple H, talk like ordinary people would in such circumstances?

Why do they have to throw out terms like ‘pay grade’, ‘performance evaluation’ and ‘business’ like they’re being paid to do so? Their language comes off as scripted, phony and superficial.

This is not what the RAW audience tunes in to see. They want wrestling and storylines centred on in-ring action, not semi-active authority figures. But more on them later.


Dana Brooke’s Face Turn

In the next segment, the WWE took us on a trip down memory lane, reminding us fondly of Women’s History Month…by having Dana Brooke lose in less time it would take a person to write these few lines of text.

While Dana did get a brief pop from the audience for breaking away from Charlotte at long last, it’s not going to lead to anything. WWE just did this segment to kill off that storyline allegiance between Charlotte and Dana. They know Charlotte is the bigger star, while Dana won’t even get a chance to score a major win over her former mentor.

So that moment was all for nothing, as Dana is most likely to either go back to NXT or to become lost in the non-Four-Horsewomen shuffle of women’s wrestlers.

If they teased or built up this moment even remotely similarly to how they teased Batista’s departure from Evolution, the moment would’ve had more impact to it. Instead, it happened on a random RAW that no one will remember in a few weeks.

It was clear from the beginning they were trying desperately to fill three hours of time, so they just threw together a random match and post-match beatdown, instead of giving Dana another chance to prove herself. You can see WWE’s priorities right there.

The only reason this whole thing succeeded at all is because Jericho has creative control over his character
 
 

After another Cruiserweight match that got some time and a good reaction from the audience (WWE must be fans of my rants – they’re learning how to treat the Cruiserweights properly), we got what could’ve been a huge match in an alternate reality for free on a random RAW.

Sami Zayn & Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens & Samoa Joe in itself sounds like an awesome match that could main event any Raw-exclusive PPV. But instead of making money, WWE gave it away for free, because of course, they did.

Now, there were two things that stood out as wrong and illogical in this segment. First, Chris Jericho was smirking as he came into the ring. Smirking. After being destroyed by Kevin Owens in such brutal fashion a few weeks ago. And later on during the show, he was back to normal, telling his regular jokes and repeating his catchphrases.

It was almost as if…nothing big ever happened.

It’s because of stuff like this that WWE cannot get fans to care about their storylines enough to gain new viewers (or even keep regular ones interested). The wrestlers involved are scripted to drop any elements of long-term storytelling and emotional selling, in favour of ‘smiling to make everyone happy’.

It’s a nonsensical approach to storytelling that’s a major cause of their struggles with filling seats and keeping people invested in their programming.

If fans can see that the wrestlers aren’t selling the seriousness of the storylines they’re in, the fans won’t care as much. Jericho should’ve tried his best to attack Owens at every opportunity, or at least to tease some degree of anger or frustration.

Instead, Jericho was his same old self without any other personality changes. No wonder nobody cares about the actual storylines the wrestlers are involved in. Secondly, this match ended due to two wrestlers being heels.

It’s one thing for a wrestler to get disqualified for using a weapon. It’s another thing entirely for two wrestlers to use ‘the numbers game’ to get a brief-yet-effective advantage over the underdog babyfaces. This second tactic is a tried-and-tested method for the heels to get the audience to cheer the good guys. And the bad guys were punished for doing this.

But it’s OK because the heels got the advantage after the match, which is acceptable because wins and losses don’t matter in WWE.

Except they do. WWE thinks its average fan has the memory of a goldfish, forgetting what occurred two weeks ago. Sadly for WWE, the internet never forgets, and every win and loss gets recorded. So for Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe to get themselves disqualified here made them look like fools.

The whole point of WrestleMania season is for people to gain momentum for the biggest show of them all, and Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe lost whatever momentum that gained last week with this act of stupidity.

The history books will always look at which wrestler won, end of story, and in this case it’ll show Jericho and Zayn beating Owens and Joe, which shouldn’t have happened, given these two evil heels need as much heat as possible leading into ‘Mania.

This was one opportunity when a clean loss would’ve been perfectly appropriate, because the team of Owens and Joe needed a win much more desperately than a post-match beatdown, especially since Joe’s attempt at one last week ended with a Codebreaker to the face.

Samoa Joe is not impressed.

If you wanted further proof that wins and losses do not matter in WWE, consider the tag team match. Gallows & Anderson interfered in a match to determine the #1 contenders for their titles, in theory preventing contenders from being chosen. Instead, Foley proved that the match was completely irrelevant, as he just made a new decision anyway.

It seems to be that these shenanigans were less frequent and the plot holes were less obvious when the New Day were Champions. But ever since they lost the belts, Vince McMahon seems to have given up entirely on the division.

People only win via shenanigans on TV, clean wins are rarer than a Brock Lesnar promo in which Lesnar himself opens his mouth, and most people behave like idiots in the division instead of taking things seriously. Way to sell your own division, Vince.


As the show progressed, we got our weekly Roman Reigns match, only this time it featured something that proved that Reigns is ‘special’.

During Reigns’ match with Jinder Mahal, the Undertaker’s gong went off and Reigns was ‘distracted momentarily’. Now, if you go back in WWE history, whether it’s 10 days or ten years, every time music hits, the wrestler that gets ‘distracted’ eats a finisher or is rolled-up.

Sometimes it works to add a new rivalry, such as the Rock’s successful mini-feud with the Hurricane.

That would’ve worked in this case, had Jinder Mahal of all people used the Undertaker’s gong to score a surprise win over Reigns. It would’ve also made storyline sense as well, given ‘Taker’s penchant for mind games.

Instead, we got Reigns being distracted for all of 25 seconds before he completely no-sold all of Mahal’s offence and won the match. This flew in the face of everything WWE does in its matches, essentially creating special booking circumstances for Roman Reigns.

Apparently, he can never look weak, and cannot succumb to the same weaknesses that everyone else in WWE appears to be vulnerable to. It’s the subtle things like this that remind you Reigns is the new Golden Boy, and he has to win all the time without never showing even a hint of weakness.

It's too bad for the WWE that people keep rejecting everything Reigns does no matter how hard they try.


It’s good to see Austin Aries back in the ring. Hopefully, he’ll end up being booked like Neville, someone around whom the Cruiserweight Division can be built. If that happens, there would still be a bright future for this division that, so far, has had a tumultuous start.


As if two notable disqualification finishes wasn’t enough, we got a third one for the match between Nia Jax and Bayley. So Nia Jax got disqualified, looking like a loser again. How is anyone supposed to believe she has any chance in a WrestleMania match when she keeps losing, and the other women recover from her beatdowns with relative ease?

WWE has no idea how to book Nia Jax properly and is treating her simply as a larger women’s wrestler instead of the female equivalent of Braun Strowman. Alas, WWE showed us here that, when it comes to match-endings, they have as much creativity now as TNA did a few years ago when they did their own version of Daniel Bryan’s main event ascent.


Mick Foley's Firing Been Set up

Finally, the main event of RAW, the show that in the video games stood for ‘Real Athletic Wrestling’, was a segment involving the Authority deciding which person they’d fire. WWE’s priorities in a nutshell: the show about wrestling focuses on the men and women in business clothes.

 This eventually led to Foley trying to show some guts, but again he was emasculated by Stephanie and Triple H, who proved they’re the biggest stars of the program still, even after all of these years.

This led to Seth Rollins coming back and brawling with Triple H, who then stood dominant over the Architect by destroying him with his own crutch. It was a good segment that helped build to WrestleMania further, and at least now we know that Rollins will indeed be facing HHH at ‘Mania.

If Angle becomes the next RAW General Manager and has to suffer what Foley has gone through, he’ll be pulling his non-existent hair within a month’s time
 

This episode of RAW was utterly forgettable.

Nothing major happened apart from the closing segment that teased Foley leaving. But it didn’t help that the entire build-up of those segments involving Foley and Stephanie had a 25-second payoff. Foley has Mr Socko on for about 25 seconds before Stephanie low-blowed him and put herself and her husband back in the driver’s seat.

As suddenly as the irritating status quo was disrupted, it was back in place, more powerful than ever. This definitely hints Foley might be fired from his Raw’s GM position.

No wonder RAW’s struggling to sell out arenas this close to WrestleMania. People literally don’t have a reason to care about RAW’s storylines because Stephanie McMahon will always force herself into them one way or another.


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