RAW Deal: Only got a gallon in the gas tank

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis
RAW Deal: Only got a gallon in the gas tank
With just one Sunday left until the Fastlane PPV, Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan are in hurry-up mode to create hype for their pivotal number one contender match

COLUMBUS, USA —There’s only one Sunday left ’til Fastlane, we’ve got a fresh main event to look forward to, and there are some pretty palpable tensions rising around it; but for some reason, it felt like everyone was running in place this Monday on RAW. 

For those who are somewhat new to this, because they’ve got Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan—two good guys—facing off for the former’s title shot, there isn’t any natural, ready-made conflict in there. When you pit two good guys against each other, in theory, who exactly do you boo? On paper, where is the drama coming from? This is why the solution is to introduce a wrinkle into the two heroes’ relationship; you manufacture some tension where there wouldn’t normally be. One of them starts acting, well, not his usual goody two-shoes self. The drama, then, rises from the anticipation of who is going to do what. Who’s going to give in to his baser instincts.

Sometimes, the conflict is more natural than you think. The Authority, in its dislike for Reigns, legitimately granted Bryan a title shot by defeating Seth Rollins last week, playing to Reigns’s ego to allow that opportunity. Naturally, Reigns gets defensive about all this, standing by the fact that he earned the title shot by winning the Royal Rumble. Which he did, and is right about. The chip on his shoulder makes him act a little angrier, a little more carried away than a good guy should be. 

What’s problematic about this entire story now is that for some reason, after establishing the fact that Reigns is the potential loose cannon here, the heel turn-in-waiting, Daniel Bryan seems to be acting a little too arrogant for his personality. He keeps coming in and rubbing in Reigns’s face that he is the better wrestler—while that’s true (it’s why people would much rather see him challenge for the championship) it kind of reeks of obnoxiousness, especially when you put him with a guy who isn’t saying he’s a bad wrestler and isn’t holding him down. In other words, it’s more heroic and inspirational when he’s saying it to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, not an angry guy who had no problems with him before. Now, he sounds like a douchebag. He’s just poking the bear.

And then compound that with the not-so-perfect execution of the old “accidentally-hit-your-ally-and-cause-a-misunderstanding” wrestling trope. The tension starts to boil early in the show when Kane sends Bryan accidentally charging Reigns in the corner, leading to the latter being mad and the former being apologetic, and setting up the “will-they-coexist” scenario for the main event.  This might be some nitpicking on my end, but there’s nothing believably accidental about mistakenly nailing your ally with a dropkick. Unless you were shoved in mid-air, there was a split-second to think about the move. If that little detail was there for other people to catch, then it might possibly have been done to fuel speculation on who exactly is giving in and crossing over to the dark side on or before Fastlane.

While it all seems intriguing on paper, it ends up playing out in such a pedestrian and dragging manner. There’s one more RAW left until the PPV, so the Bryan-Reigns storyline developments definitely could have been stretched out; we could have had the opening segment close out this episode, and the closing segment on at next week’s. A relative lack of Paul Heyman removes an important catalyst that makes these acting segments work, resulting in too much underacted drama. 

We’re heading too fast into Fastlane, but the engine can’t hold up.

High spots: 

  • Despite coming off as a bit of a braggart, Bryan was pretty funny with his lines tonight, even getting Reigns to laugh and put him over. I wish, however, Triple H and Kane exchanged a weird look when Bryan talked about Hunter’s history with caskets. Would’ve been gold.
  • Dolph Ziggler and Bray Wyatt keep putting on great matches, although I have to wonder: if they’re doing Wyatt vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania, why be slow about it? If you’re still vague about what you’re doing with Wyatt this close to the penultimate PPV, it betrays a lack of plans for him at the moment. You need to be doing more than mind games now.
  • Speaking of mind games, I enjoyed that little Sting/HHH segment. It seems like they’re making him do the Undertaker’s work now, portraying him as another supernatural character with powers over technology, and that’s cool as long as they make it distinct from Taker’s calling cards. People dressed up like Sting? That’s awesome.

  • Usos and Kidd/Cesaro, again, are a treat to watch, but I have a bone to pick with it. 

  • The Miz/Mizdow feud continues to escalate, and I wish it could’ve gone longer. When is Mizdow going to snap already, though?

  • Speaking of partners who have snapped, Stardust has finally crossed over to the dark(er) side, just in time to set up a match at Fastlane.
  • Glad to see Rikishi being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Not a mind-blowing induction, but certainly not offensive either. It’s all right.

  • The main event featured some good action from Bryan and some sensible storytelling all around, but anything positive to take away from these is just watered down by the fact that these handicap beatdowns happen weekly. I get it’s a heel move, yes, but even villains need to switch it up somewhat.
  • I have to commend the Cena/Rusev feud for having absolutely nothing to do with USA vs. Russia, no matter how much the audience insists on it. New blood vs. old guard is nothing new, especially with Seth Rollins always trumpeting that he’s the future of the WWE, but it feels rather fresh when it’s Rusev involved. Whether they end up ultimately giving him the win when the feud ends is still up in the air due to their track record of booking Cena, but I feel like the youngster’s got a real shot at looking good here. He deserves it. 

  • “DON’T ‘WHAT’ ME, I AM A HERO!” 

Low blows:

  • I get that you don’t have a lot of tag teams to work with, but did we really have to see Usos vs. Kidd and Cesaro two weeks before they’re set to face off? There were a million ways to advance the story: you could’ve had Naomi face off against Natalya to play off of the absurd double date they had on SmackDown. You could’ve brought in a couple of jobbers for Kidd and Cesaro to beat around. You could’ve had Los Matadores job to either team to make them look strong going in. We need to work harder with this!
  • The WWE using Curtis Axel as a jobber with the #AxelMania angle is everything that is wrong with how they handle young talents. This is a guy who could possibly get over as a minor heel, something you always need more of. Let him have his moment; or at least let him parlay it into a competition for the Intercontinental championship shot Ambrose is trying to solicit from Bad News Barrett.
  • There’s too much of it for this particular episode (and in general) so I’ll make this a big low blow. Here goes the WWE again, cramming too much story to process as we head toward Wrestlemania. It’s a lot easier when all of the stories have enough time and space to breathe and develop, instead of rushing them in quick 5-10 minute segments because there’s too many of them to highlight. Here’s an idea: use SmackDown. Yes, not as much people watch it, which is why you force them to watch it by putting some important angles there that you won’t see on RAW. It might sound like blasphemy, but Cena/Rusev primarily playing out on SmackDown instead of RAW instantly makes the blue show must-see television. That gives lesser angles like Ambrose/Barrett or Goldust/Stardust that same viewership they could get from being on RAW, and everyone benefits because everything suddenly has more time to develop at a natural pace, and you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to cram everything else after bookending the episode with two big Reigns/Bryan/Authority segments.
  • I know it’s keeping up with storyline continuity, but can we just please move on from the Survivor Series 2014 main event? It’s a shame because Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, and Ryback coming down to save Reigns and Bryan would have been a nice little nod with some awesome impact had we not seen them facing off against some Authority crony week after week. And are there really no other guys who want to stand up to the Authority? By virtue of that same continuity, shouldn’t Ambrose be running around with this gang as well? 


  • Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to most of 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 the PWR) Raf Camus! They’ve got PWR star and head trainer Bombay Suarez on their latest episode, talking about how the revival of the local wrestling scene started, its current state, and its future! Listen to it here! – Rappler.com

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