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Alex Rants On: WWE RAW, January 2nd, 2017

So just how well did RAW do on their first episode of 2017? Click to find out...

‘RAW’ stands for ‘Real, Athletic Wrestling’, but only in the video games...

They say that the first few days of the year set the tone for all of the days that follow. If that’s true, I don’t feel too optimistic about RAW, given what played out on this week’s episode.

With 2016 going down as one of the most draining and disappointing years, in terms of WWE’s creative direction, there were hopes that the new one would open with a bang. Given previous years, this was the expectation, as WrestleMania is fast approaching and WWE usually puts as much effort into starting the year off on the right foot.

This year…they did not. They did many things that left a lot to be desired and repeated many of the trends that made 2016 one of the worst years in recent memory for RAW.

And without further ado, let the rant begin.

We began 2017 in WWE…with a promo by Mick Foley. Yes, in 2017, almost twenty years after the ‘evil authority figure’ gimmick first launched with Mr McMahon, we still have the authority as the key players on WWE programming. So much for starting off the year with something fresh and exciting like…a match.

Anyway, Foley cut the same old promos he usually does, before he was interrupted by Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho, who did as much as they could to salvage it. It was on its way to being a much better promo (especially with Owens asking, ‘who cares about what you [Foley] think?) when Stephanie McMahon came down to remind us all exactly who the biggest star of the show is.

She droned on about how she was disgusted with SmackDown beating RAW in the ratings, and how she and Foley sometimes agree and disagree.

Here’s a newsflash for you, Stephanie: in theory, no one should care what you think, but because you’re featured more than any other wrestler on the RAW roster, with the exception of Roman Reigns, fans have been conditioned to think your opinion matters.

If Stephanie were looking for a reason for SmackDown beating RAW, she should look in the mirror and she’d find it. Maybe if RAW opened with an actual match for once, most fans wouldn’t tune out in droves when the show started.

Once all of this ended, we got the first RAW match of 2017, and it was on its way to being a good match until the end. Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins demonstrated good chemistry, but all of that went out the window when Owens got himself disqualified.

Owens went to the timekeeper’s area and hit Rollins with the ring bell. Keep in mind that the stipulation of this match was that the loser would be banned from ringside in the US Championship match between Reigns and Jericho later on.

So why would Owens get himself disqualified intentionally?

Given his close friendship with Jericho, why would he cause Jericho and himself to lose the numbers game, especially when you consider Reigns’ powerful booking? Because the people that book the heel champion are incompetent and must present the heel champion as either a complete buffoon or a coward that’s incapable of winning on his own, or both.

It’s stuff like this that makes you sympathise with Owens.

Yes, he’s WWE Universal Champion, but his booking as champion has been worse than when Seth Rollins was WWE Champion. It really has gotten that bad. Clearly, something needs to change if fans are supposed to care about the Champion and the challenger, especially when there’s so much apathy towards a Champion that can’t win on his own and acts like an idiot in segments like this one.

The next match was Cesaro vs. Karl Anderson. In this match, the dreaded 50/50 booking struck again. Both men were doing a good job throughout the match, but the finish was once again screwy. Sheamus caused Cesaro to lose his balance, allowing Anderson to steal a victory.

Once again, the Champions and the challengers exchange meaningless wins and losses, and no one grows any further. Let’s hope this issue doesn’t become a fixture in 2017 as it was in 2016.

After this we had the Last Man Standing Match between Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman. There was nothing wrong with this match, as it did a good job of portraying Zayn as an underdog and Strowman as an unstoppable monster.

The big question left now is, ‘where does Sami go from here?’

It’s obvious that Strowman’s being pushed as an unrelenting monster and a likely winner of the 2017 Rumble match, but Zayn’s future is more uncertain. With whom will he feud from here? Will he stay on RAW or finally jump to SmackDown?

They’ve got to find something meaningful for him soon, otherwise he should jump to SmackDown, where he’d have a lesser chance of being lost in the shuffle.

Not even Toru Yano knows what’s in Zayn’s future.

Shortly thereafter, we had a New Day segment that also featured Titus O’Neil. This was the best promo Titus has cut in a very long time. Pity it was for naught since he lost to Woods in a relatively short match. Titus’ booking is incredibly confusing. They appear to be trying to push him and his ‘brand’ on a regular basis, but he always loses.

Who in their right mind would support a loser’s brand? The mind boggles.

We then had another Stephanie promo, with her dressing down Bayley. This promo was a giant contradiction. Stephanie said she never wanted Bayley on RAW and that she didn’t have what it took to be the face of the RAW women’s division.

At the same time, Stephanie credits herself for starting the Women’s Revolution in WWE (because, of course, she would), and was seen ringside during several of Bayley’s biggest matches on NXT, including her two outstanding matches with Sasha Banks.

Moreover, there’s a major belief in WWE that Stephanie is a big supporter of the change in women’s wrestling and the way it has gone so far, and Bayley represents that change.

So, one can draw one of three conclusions with this promo: either a) Stephanie forgot she was on NXT and forgot how much she loved Bayley’s matches with Sasha; b) whoever wrote this segment doesn’t watch NXT or c) Stephanie’s ego made her rip into a woman she’s supposed to be supporting.

Whatever the case, this was a terrible segment that was meant to make Stephanie and her corporate talk (‘above your pay grade’? On a wrestling show? Really?) the center of the RAW universe.

This is how most people felt during this next segment. Seriously, the audience was THAT quiet.

The next match we got was the Cruiserweight match between Drew Gulak and Cedric Alexander, which lasted only three minutes and ended when Gulak used the dreaded roll-up. I have said this many times before, but the Roll-up is the single worst way to end a match.

It looks weak and relatively harmless, doesn’t excite the crowd as much as it should, and makes everyone involved look like an idiot. There was hope that the Cruiserweight division, with its emphasis on high-flying athleticism, wouldn’t showcase something that has plagued WWE booking years, but sadly, that hope is gone.

The Cruiserweight division is officially identical to every other division on RAW in that they’re subject to the same terrible booking.

The next big match was the US Championship match between Reigns and Jericho. This could’ve been a much bigger match if it wasn’t so fresh in most fans’ memories. Roman Reigns defeated Chris Jericho not too long ago, yet now we’re supposed to feel excited about seeing them wrestle each other again.

Even with the added stipulation for this match, it didn’t feel unique, especially since they repeated several spots (Reigns reversing the Codebreaker into a Powerbomb attempt, for example).

This issue is a symptom of RAW’s abysmal writing and poor planning for the majority of the roster. Reigns doesn’t have any strong challengers for his U.S. title, so WWE is relying on Jericho, who has been an established star for years. By constantly repeating the same matches, they lose their meaning and importance, especially with WWE’s dreaded 50/50 booking.

As for the match itself, it was good overall, but bereft of anything memorable other than the Eddie Guerrero tribute. As per usual, Reigns wins cleanly retaining his title, even though it’s a Championship that he doesn’t really need, given that he’s back in the World Title picture (much to the chagrin of many fans).

Afterwards, we got another Cruiserweight match, this one being between Brian Kendrick and T.J. Perkins. In a completely unsurprising turn of events, we got a rematch of something we have seen several times in 2016, with no build and no major continuity of any sort.

WWE simply loves to rehash and redo old matches under the logic that fans, with their short attention span and shorter memories, will forget them in a few weeks. Too bad for WWE it doesn’t work that way. They’re oversaturating their own product and repeating so many of their matches it’s no wonder their ratings are down.

During this match between, Perkins did a springboard Hurricanrana onto Kendrick, who was perched on the top turnbuckle. This was an amazing move that, when used by Kota Ibushi three years ago, brought the Wrestle Kingdom audience to its feet.

When seen on RAW, there was barely any reaction from the audience. If you wanted any more proof that the audience is dead during RAW and the product is oversaturated, this would be it.

If you’re still unconvinced that WWE is oversaturating their market, consider the following. During the commercial, we got another announcement for the UK tournament. WWE’s new content strategy appears to be to saturate the market with more WWE content than the average fan can handle.

WWE has many fans in Britain, and now it wants to add another show solely for the UK? This’ll bring even more content to those fans, to a point where they’ll be completely oversaturated and exhausted over how much weekly content there will be.

We had another commercial for Emmalina’s imminent debut. I think it’s safe to say she’ll be debuting the night after WrestleMania 50. This is one of the strangest things on RAW. They have a woman that’s capable of working, she has been cleared to wrestle, and they have a gimmick for her. So why continue delaying her return?

After a quick match where Rusev won cleanly (big surprise, I know), we had a #1 contender’s match for the RAW Women’s Championship between Bayley and Nia Jax. Here, we got yet another screwy finish, as Jax was distracted by Sasha Banks’ music, allowing Bayley to defeat her.

Once again, this made a wrestler look like an idiot because she was distracted by another wrestler’s music.

If you were to put yourself in a wrestler’s boots and found yourself in a wrestling ring, you’d never let something as irrelevant as surprise entrance music distract you from the task at hand. In an environment where the slightest mistake can end a career, you need to be focused on what you and your immediate opponent are doing.

Everything outside of that ring shouldn’t matter (except for fan reaction). So for another wrestler to be distracted by entrance music (especially a supposed monster heel like Jax) is completely asinine.

Finally, we reached the last segment on RAW, which was the first edition of the Kevin Owens Show (because we totally need another talk show on the wrestling show), with his first guest being Goldberg. Owens did a great job of not being intimidated by Goldberg, which made for a nice change since the current roster ends up being fodder for Superstars of yesteryear most of the time.

Soon, more people got involved, with Heyman, Strowman and Reigns all coming down. The segment ended with Goldberg and Reigns hitting a double spear on Strowman, and that’s how RAW ended. WWE’s strategy appears to be ‘put Reigns with every top babyface in the hopes of getting him over’.

They did this again on RAW, with Reigns and Goldberg double-spearing Strowman. Goldberg got a monstrous ovation, while Reigns got nothing. The only reason he got cheered was due to Goldberg’s popularity.

So overall, RAW this week wasn’t up to par. WWE’s supposed to open the year with a bang, and it felt more like a whimper. The show lacked the major spectacle and high-profile matches this time of year is supposed to feature, and there was little that was truly memorable.

Hopefully they’ll do better next week, but for now, it’s likely SmackDown will win the ratings battle for this week.

Keep in mind SmackDown has this guy, while RAW has his lesser Samoan imposter

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