THE SPECIALISTS TUCKER'S LIVE INSTANT REACTION - Raw: An assessment of the glaring Strengths & Weaknesses post-Elimination Chamber
Jun 2, 2015 - 2:28:20 PM
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Live Instant Reaction - WWE Raw 6/1
By Ben Tucker, PWTorch TV specialist
Overall Score - 6.0
WWE's flagship show as a whole continues to be less than the sum of its parts. While the mid-card is as lively as ever, careers are taking off, and the show is feeling truly fresh for the first time since mid-2013, the same poor booking principals are holding the product down like a rabid dog chained to a fence post. Wacky-eyed Dean Ambrose, 20-minute Authority promos, predictable outcomes, and the short-term waste of Bray Wyatt under the banner of a three-hour program create a stench that wafts over the entire product. Tonight's Raw showed off a lot of good, but still excelled in holding itself back from being even better.
For example; what is gained from having Bray Wyatt, with interference on his side, lose to the incredibly protected Roman Reigns? Wyatt has gone from facing The Undertaker to being lost in the mid-card as the main event scene is dominated by the former Shield members. For all of the Kane-Reigns matches presented on a monthly basis, this would have been the perfect time to actually have one between them; at least when the alternative is jobbing this generation's mind-bender.
In the main event scene, Seth Rollins's title reign continues to suffer from being attached to The Authority, with his three crooks portraying the Three Stooges more than anything resembling competent partners in crime. And, for as entertaining as J&J Security are, they've been providing the same role for the past six months. Having such a constant stream of interference for so long doesn't gain heat, it gains predictability and a desensitization to run-ins on the rest of the card.
Desensitization is actually an ongoing problem with Raw, as the program showed off some of its stalest wrestling match-ups possible after nearly 20 years of throwing such contests out on television for nothing. Sheamus vs. Orton and Ziggler vs. Kingston have been beaten into the ground to near-Cena-Orton levels. There is nothing to do with these pairs anymore and it's a shameful thing.
The presentation of the Divas is pathetic as well, with no clear faces or heels. The only characteristic being exhibited by anyone on the roster is a witch.
And yet, despite having so many of these glaring flaws, Raw managed to be a solid show. The mid-card is flourishing, the highest point of which being the Kevin Owens-John Cena feud. Owens and Cena have perfectly targeted the Network's key demographic (Internet-savvy adult males) with their "smark-friendly" vocabulary usage of words such as SuperCena, and they have done so without compromising kayfabe or losing the casual audience. Owens is perfectly portraying what a heel should be, performing heinous actions that he feels are justified through twisting logic in his own mind. Cena, in turn, plays the ideal foil, believing in a solid foundation of clearly-defined morals that should be followed at all costs. Cena's chemistry with Owens hasn't been seen since the U.S. Champ faced off with C.M. Punk in 2011-2013. The WWE Championship may be the top title in the company, but it is certainly not the most interesting.
Elsewhere on the card, Ryback is getting the Intercontinental Title at a big sink-or-swim point in his career. While the impending Big a Show feud interests me about as much as a used tin can, Show has proven that he can get wrestlers over in the right situation (such as Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules).
Even in the tag division there are signs of life, with the Prime Time Players continuing to shine through questionable gimmickry with their off-the-charts levels of charisma.
WWE is currently in a phase of growing pains, similar to 1996. Whether or not this leads to a golden age of wrestling in the next two years is anyone's guess. What is true, though, is that while individual parts of Raw are shining, the overall husk that holds the show together is still severely flawed. Until the major kinks are solved, WWE will not flourish.
Questions? Comments? Reactions? Find me on Twitter @BTuckerTorch, where I talk about wrestling and... stuff!
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