RAW Deal: Like the first time, but not quite

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis
RAW Deal: Like the first time, but not quite
The WWE resorted to hyperbole again this weekend, but the long-term solution to their ratings problem may not be as complicated as they think

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK—The WWE might very well be the most hyperbolic sports company in the world. That’s saying something, as sports is a hyperbolic business in itself, always driven to hype itself in the most exaggerated way it could.

But the WWE does a lot more than any other mainstream sports league ever could—where leagues such as the NBA or NFL hype only its biggest games in a way that’s cool and professional (sports talk radio is something else entirely), the WWE will beat you over the head with their selling points over and over, many times in a broadcast. The commentators will do it, the wrestlers will do it. It’s always “FOR THE FIRST TIME IN WWE HISTORY!” or “THE BIGGEST [THING] IN WWE HISTORY!” From this creative direction alone, it’s clear that Vince McMahon was never a believer in subtlety.

Because of declining TV ratings (despite, or maybe because of, big moments such as the Undertaker’s return), the Authority decided to make “first time ever” the major theme of this week’s episode. (Almost) everything is for the first time ever, even when they don’t really deserve major billing. Not a lot of these first-time-evers are mindblowing, simply because they rarely feel groundbreaking. 

Dean Ambrose vs. Big Show is a first-time ever match that was wrestled rather well, but after that, so what? The Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores might very well be a first-time ever tag team match-up, but haven’t we seen them tangle with each other in some form when the tag team division is haphazardly booked against each other just because? Even Cena vs. Rollins, a hot main event match in its own right, was something we’ve already seen earlier in the year, even though to be totally fair to them, it’s been kept fresh enough. The only thing that felt really new, living up to its first time ever moniker, was Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens.

It’s interesting that the company, in dire straits, is trying to bust out the novelty but actually refuses to be truly revolutionary. The Divas doing battle with each other is a revolution, but it’s not safe from derailment (more on that later). Young lions having great matches is nice, but when all they have is great matches that don’t impact the status quo, how does it help the bigger picture? The recent history of the WWE has mostly been that what’s happening are hardly ever the changes that really matter. 

If they wanted something new to draw the right kind of buzz, they’d pull the trigger on things like Kevin Owens beating John Cena, or Seth Rollins going toe-to-toe with Brock Lesnar, or Cesaro getting a chance to run with the ball. Just off the top of my head. Some of these things are actually happening, but sometimes, all the faith you have in a company like the WWE isn’t all the faith that you need.

Once they get over all their inhibitions and start actually, consistently doing new things, awesome things for the first time ever, then we’ll talk.


High spots:

  • You’ve probably heard about it by now, but that main event was crazy—if only for the insane determination and toughness John Cena shown in finishing that match despite his nose. It seems as though the only way to get Cena to sell like any other wrestler is to hurt him for real, and even though we don’t actually advocate hurting Cena, or any other wrestler, for real, somebody should tell him he comes off a lot better (read: more believable) that way. 

  • Also, you might think that there’s very little point in Cena beating Seth Rollins clean in a match waaay before you’d expect them to tangle at SummerSlam, but think of it this way: Rollins can play up the whiny heel again, as heels are supposed to, and since he’s still the bigger champion on paper, he has something Cena doesn’t have. Your match is still there.
  • Dean Ambrose vs. Big Show may be a throwaway match to you, but the way they worked the ending was amazing, if only because you don’t see countout finishes booked logically every night. Whoever came up with that needs to be promoted.
  • So many people could replace JBL as color commentator: the Miz, John Cena, Titus O’Neil, the list goes on. That’s how terrible JBL is.
  • Bray Wyatt’s explanation of why he set Luke Harper free and why he came back is very satisfactory. This is the kind of logic we need to see consistently on the show.
  • If you still think Rusev is a babyface after their segment, you might need to take a step back and reevaluate your life.

  • There’s not much to say about the Divas at this point other than you need to keep watching their matches. I do actually have some criticism to throw at this whole storyline later.
  • Even though Owens vs. Orton was not the spectacle it had the potential to be, I want these two to have a full-time feud. I imagine it’s going to be a sleeper great feud considering how similar their characters are. 

Low blows:

  • The Authority is now less evil boss and more shrewd promoter. It’s fine if the intention is to antagonize them less, but I think that has to be made clear.
  • All right, so here’s my problem with the Diva Revolution: right now, it’s just a series of matches featuring different Diva combinations that don’t advance the plot very much. If you’re wondering what the plot is (because you might have forgotten), it’s Paige trying to overthrow the Bellas’ reign on top of the division. If you’ve forgotten that, it’s because the best they’ve done in selling you this story is random, loose confrontations between the three trios. We’re getting matches just because they’re good, and now we’ll need more than that. The girls need more promo time, and they need promos that actually drive their story forward. 


Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions—especially that last one—are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast—featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person (and voice of PWR) Raf Camus! On their latest episode, they talk to Magic 89.9 veteran CJ the DJ and his favorite wrestlers growing up, how he thinks finishers need more landi, and his real thoughts on John Cena! Listen to it here! – Rappler.com

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