RAW Deal: A lack of RAW imagination

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis

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RAW Deal: A lack of RAW imagination
The mirror has to be held up to RAW’s face

CONNECTICUT, USA – If, before Hell in a Cell, you still somehow weren’t convinced that Monday Night RAW was the show that lacked any sort of will to make things happen, the result of the first-ever women’s Hell in a Cell match should be enough to sway you.

Vince McMahon only had one job to do. Everything was laid out in front of him – it was the first time the women got to main event a PPV event, never mind that it was just Hell in a Cell, it was the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell, and it was in Sasha Banks’s hometown of Boston. Winning and getting that big special hometown moment was a formality. Should’ve been a formality.

Instead, for reasons that are still unclear to us, McMahon decides to go with the completely counterintuitive move and have Charlotte win the championship for an unprecedented third time. Nobody knows why he decided to do this and save what was a middling late October evening. Nobody has a special place in their heart for the Hell in a Cell event, and the opportunity to propel Hell in a Cell 2016, at the very least, to an honorable mention in the annals of WWE history was right there. 

Instead, fans will look back on this and remember it as a bit of trivia – that this was the show wrestling had its first female Cell match and main event. That’s just it, though, and nobody’s going to look back fondly and say it was a great night. There will be a little girl in the audience who becomes inspired by the bout, but beyond that? Not much. 

I hope he never wonders why nobody really likes watching RAW. Where SmackDown Live has become a place where many fans genuinely enjoy watching because the things they want to see happen thrive. 

Sometimes it’s genuinely great; sometimes it’s pure fanservice that rubs others the wrong way. For example, the little promotion of James Ellsworth to a prominent supporting character in Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles’s WWE Championship story is something fans like seeing because it’s different and nonsensical, but not in an exasperating way. It’s refreshing because it doesn’t follow any rote, overtrodden wrestling storyline patterns, but some fans who take their wrestling a little more seriously don’t like the intrusion of a guy who honestly looks like he wouldn’t have passed a WWE tryout otherwise.

But the beauty of James Ellsworth – even though I personally don’t feel strongly about the guy either way – is that objectively, there really is a story that has been progressing smoothly and logically week to week. No matter what you feel about him, whether you hate him and especially if you adore him, here is a guy who wasn’t just thrust into our lives with no warning. His place in the narrative now is the product of a methodical build, a story told refreshingly chapter by chapter, without getting too ahead of themselves. The only way SmackDown will bungle this is if he sticks around in this same spot after Survivor Series in a few weeks; but as of now, his time will be up soon.

And you can really say the same about most storylines on SmackDown. The show has managed to resurrect Dolph Ziggler’s image, an idea that seemed like a straight up impossibility six months ago. Even the Cinderella tale of Beauty and the Man-Beast makes sense, even though they’re about to wear out their welcome as the SmackDown Tag Team Champions. Even I find a little intrigue in Randy Orton’s story with the Wyatt Family, when I was about ready to write it off at No Mercy. I keep harping on SmackDown’s superiority over and over, I know, but only because I feel like the mirror has to be held up to RAW’s face. 

Live in the 205

Speaking of RAW’s inferiority, the show has apparently become so unsalvageable that Triple H thought it necessary to put up another one-hour show on the WWE Network dedicated only to the Cruiserweights. Called 205 Live and debuting on Tuesday, November 29 after that week’s episode of SmackDown, it is what it is – a live wrestling program where only the Cruiserweights shine, in an attempt to recreate some of that Cruiserweight Classic magic.

While the idea is noble, for sure, it just feels like a cop-out. The subtext behind this show is that Triple H couldn’t get any traction for his babies on RAW thanks to a million different opposing forces, so he decides to get them a separate spot. It’s not his fault, for sure, but I feel disappointed that none of the progressive minds behind the curtain could beat back McMahon’s stubbornness. It’s gonna be fun and I’ll watch it, for sure, but I just wish they had the spot and backing they deserve on the WWE’s flagship show.

The second Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic

The second edition of this annual tournament has been chugging along quietly over the past month of NXT programming, and it might very well be the worst version of the tournament in its short history. I mean, yeah, this is only just the second year, but the whole thing has been so derailed by both injuries and a lack of programming momentum. 

First, the Cruiserweight Classic’s exclusive broadcasts have spoiled my personal expectations for the Dusty Rhodes tournament, so I don’t exactly appreciate it crammed in between other things during regular NXT episodes. Since there are only 16 teams participating, the whole tournament should be good for five exclusive WWE Network episodesm – and because we already have precedent in the Cruiserweight Classic, I don’t see how they couldn’t have pulled these strings.

Second, there’s just a lot of bad luck going around. Austin Aries, Dash Wilder, and Hideo Itami have been injured before or over the course of the tourney, and when you combine these unfortunate injuries with the usual quick wins that happen in the first round, a lot of the excitement gets deflated. They’ve still got time to save the tournament, but they’re going to need all instant classics from here on out, much like the Cruiserweight Classic’s finals were. There have been some good matches, but they need to be lit starting next week.

– Rappler.com

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 and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys go back to regular programming, having a lot to talk about in the previous week of wrestling (and just how problematic Hell in a Cell was)!

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