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Alex Rants on RAW, March 20, 2017

626   //    21 Mar 2017, 10:25 IST
This week’s RAW in a nutshell.

WWE is promoting WrestleMania as a rollercoaster ride, with every week’s episode supposed to be the climb before that huge and exciting plunge. It might be hard for some people to enjoy that roller coaster ride because this week’s episode of RAW was enough to give you motion sickness.

This week felt like punishment for us wrestling fans. Those of us that hate the Stephanie McMahon character (of which there are many) were forced to watch several segments in which she berated, insulted and punished anyone who disagreed with her. She was her obnoxious self for another week, which somehow managed to make the show worse than normal.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about how this character is booked that makes her malignant presence linger in the air long after the camera has shifted to something more interesting. It’s because of this and many other things that RAW was unbearably disappointing this week.

So without further ado, let the rant begin.

The show opened up with Mick Foley announcing he’s taking a leave of absence, with one reason being ‘for [his] own personal sanity’. Given how Stephanie’s character has been portrayed over these past few years, it doesn’t surprise me at all that this segment got so many boos.

Not out of sympathy for Foley; his character made enough on-screen blunders to make him much of a sympathetic character.

Instead, the boos were fans expressing their contempt towards Stephanie as the cycle continued itself again. Someone in a position of relative authority stood up to the even bigger boss and had enough of her. His resistance was met with an assault at the hands of Triple H and further humiliation from Stephanie.

Now, he’s leaving, so where’s her comeuppance? All that build-up, all those segments between Stephanie and Foley where the rift between them grew wider with each passing week, led to…what exactly?

Zayn insulting Stephanie again and then getting slaughtered by Samoa Joe once again? Stephanie throwing her weight around by punishing everyone that didn’t like her? What kind of storytelling is this?

It’s almost as if the writers are so afraid to put Stephanie in a compromising position of any kind out of some fear that, if she looks weak, it’ll cause some kind of devastating harm to the company.

They’ve clearly lost their mind when it comes to building the evil boss storyline properly. When Vince was in this role, he’d do a whole bunch of crazy stuff to get the audience to cheer for his enemy. He’d get his head stuck up Rikishi’s ass. He’d get beer and milk poured over him. He’d take countless finishers from everyone from Steve Austin to Mankind.

He even urinated in his pants one time to the sheer delight of the audience. Back then, the audience loved watching Vince because he knew what role he needed to play to satisfy the audience.

RAW is very much the Stephanie McMahon show these days.

But Stephanie? She’s untouchable, even by the women. No one else can touch her, so she flaunts her authority with no payoff. Why should anyone want to watch her or care about the segments she’s in?

If I’m starting to sound like a broken record to you, that’s proving my point.

Stephanie does the same stuff in the same segments every week with little to no change. She emasculates the male wrestlers, damages any upward momentum involving the female wrestlers, and makes RAW all about her. Small wonder this show has more negative reviews than positive, and why SmackDown is destroying it on a weekly basis.

It was nice seeing Samoa Joe get a decisive win again, considering he looked like a fool last week when he ate a Codebreaker for no good reason. Too bad his continued undefeated streak involved destroying Sami Zayn again.

I for one seriously hope that sooner or later, Sami Zayn actually gets a decent storyline where he defies the authority fully and gets a major title shot.

But who are we kidding here? Zayn’s probably going to stay in the doghouse for being ‘anal’ about his matches for months until no one cares about him anymore. Then WWE will try and push him again, only for his reactions to be threadbare.

Then they’ll use those reactions to prove he isn’t worth it. It’s a clever, albeit manipulative, way for some of WWE’s power-brokers to mess with the careers of those wrestlers who don’t do what they’re told and get over without WWE’s management having 100% control over the situation, and it’s maddening beyond belief.

After a few more talking segments, we got what was supposed to be the payoff of a nine-month pairing between Charlotte and Dana Brooke. These two women had shared the screen on so many occasions and were paired so much that the break-up was eventual. When Dana hit Charlotte last week, she actually got a pretty loud and sustained reaction.

So what does WWE do? They book the confrontation to take place the following week, without any further build or hype to make this match feel important. Then, Charlotte wins in three minutes, sending Dana’s RAW career down the drain.

They say a picture says a thousand words. This one says it all about RAW’s writing.

It could’ve been so easy for them to do a mini-feud after WrestleMania that would’ve featured Dana getting her revenge on Charlotte. All they’d need to do is show videos of Dana training and wanting to beat Charlotte so bad, while Charlotte would continue to scoff at Dana, dismissing her as a non-existent threat.

Then, you have the two of them face off at the first post-WrestleMania PPV. Even if it’s a short, one-month feud, it would still have some heat and could be a fresh match-up. That would actually work much better than ending the entire thing in a three-minute throwaway match on RAW that nobody cared about.

If there’s any proof that wrestlers should have more creative freedom in what they say and so, it’s Chris Jericho. During this segment, everything he said had the audience reacting accordingly and loudly.

Why? Because it was something organic that had come out of nowhere and wasn’t some manufactured corporate-sponsored nonsense that the company was trying to force down the fans’ throats.

Everything Jericho said, like ‘It’, ‘Stupid Idiot’, ‘[random verb here] it in, maaaaannn, to anything involving ‘the List’ was so ridiculously popular with the fans because it was something that they learned to love on their own. It was just like Mr Socko, a thing that was supposed to be a one-time joke becoming a key part of Foley’s character.

Brock Lesnar curses on RAW, no one bats an eye

There’s no way Jericho’s shtick would’ve been this popular if he had WWE management breathing down his neck every time he wanted to say one word. WWE’s bookers have a double standard when it comes to their current talent: If you’re a regular on the show and your name isn’t John Cena or Bray Wyatt, you have to follow the script ad verbatim without deviations and without showing and uniqueness.

But if you’re over 40, a part-timer, or someone whose prime was over a decade ago? You get free reign to say and do whatever you want. If someone has a logical explanation for this mentality, I for one would very much love to hear it.

Remember TJ Perkins, the man WWE once pegged to be the centrepiece of their renewed Cruiserweight division? Here he was losing to The Brian Kendrick in about two minutes. Way to show the world how much you care about the division.

This wasn’t even a squash match; it was the very definition of filler and demonstrated how the creative department cannot maintain a cohesive vision for the division on a regular basis.

Next, we got a boring match between Bayley and Nia Jax. Jax tried her best to make this match work, but she’s still not in the same league as the other three women. So now WrestleMania 33 will feature a Fatal-4-Way between three very good wrestlers and one slightly-above-average wrestler.

Had they booked Jax properly over the past nine months, she wouldn’t be categorized as such.

Unfortunately, Jax’s in-ring performance has stagnated to a point that people simply don’t like her anymore. They tried to make her the next Awesome Kong, but there’s been nothing awesome about her at all these past months.

We then got a Triple H promo that was hard to listen to due to the loud ‘CM Punk’ chants that kept getting louder as he spoke. While he did get his point across and was still interested in facing Seth Rollins, it took him a relatively long time to basically say, ‘if you still think you can fight me, meet me in the ring next week’.

Triple H has always been known to cut lengthy promos, but sometimes those longer ones have worked. This was not one of those times.

The next segments made absolutely zero sense in every way, shape, and form.

Stephanie was out to punish Cesaro and Sheamus for thanking Foley earlier on in the show (because if she’s going to play an evil boss, she has to always go full evil). Her punishment for this apparently dastardly crime was to put these two in a handicap match, and if they lost they’d lose their WrestleMania spot.

Had this taken place earlier in the show, it could’ve actually had some build to it to make it feel like a bigger deal.

The fact that the match DIDN’T end with the dreaded roll-up was almost as perplexing as the segment itself.

Of course, as is always the case with WWE, everything fell apart in the execution phase. No matter how much the commentators tried to explain it, Gallows & Anderson’s justification for attacking their partners didn’t make sense. They could’ve had two fewer opponents, which would’ve levelled the playing field for their WrestleMania match.

Instead, they acted like two complete goofs, and Anderson ate a Brogue Kick, ending a match that lasted probably one minute, if that. Immediately afterwards, Enzo & Cass got their revenge on Gallows & Anderson, making the tag team Champions look like both jobbers and idiots within the span of two minutes.

If this was Stephanie’s plan to punish Cesaro and Sheamus, it was a terrible one. If this was supposed to make the Champions look threatening by being ‘chaotic’, it failed hard. If this match was meant to waste everyone’s time and highlight how downright terrible the booking on RAW has been these past few months, well, mission accomplished.

I’m glad that Aries is back wrestling full-time now. He’s someone that can do very well as the centrepiece of the cruiserweight division. If he manages to get a long reign with many successful title defences, he has the potential to elevate the division as a whole. WWE already screwed up with one division ace in TJ Perkins.

They cannot possibly be dumb enough to do the same with a wrestler as accomplished and skilled as Austin Aries…can they?

In the final match of the show, we got a rematch between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. After about ten minutes, the Undertaker showed up, had a stare down with Reigns, Chokeslammed Strowman, ate a Spear, and then sat up zombie-style as Reigns left.

I for one am still not optimistic about this upcoming match for two reasons. One, the reaction Reigns will get will be horrible, and will worsen the quality of the content in the ring. Second, the Undertaker is now very old by wrestling standards, and Reigns is not the worker to be working with ‘Taker.

He’s good, but his best matches have all been with someone that’s a tried-and-tested ring general, which he is not.

If it were Styles facing the Undertaker’ he’d be able to mask the Undertaker’s limitations without any trouble. Reigns has not yet mastered that art, so the likely main-event of WrestleMania won’t be too much of a good match.

So in the end, this RAW was all kinds of bad. It centred too much on Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, the matches were all short and completely forgettable, and the writing was abysmal. The only really important development here was that Nia Jax is now in the RAW women’s WrestleMania match. Other than that, nothing of importance happened.

This wasn’t anything remotely resembling a rollercoaster thrill ride; it was more like eating tainted carnival food and waiting desperately in line for the next available bathroom stall.

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Alex is a lifelong professional wrestling fan that loves to write about it just as much as he enjoys watching it.
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