Let Them Eat Raw

The news is all over every site already. WWE has announced that beginning with it’s 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw, airing on July 23rd, Monday Night Raw will permanently switch to a three hour format. Yes, Gilligan, a three hour format.

You’ve got to hand it to Vince McMahon. When demand for his show is slowly sinking, and ratings are mirroring an arythmic heart, he has found the solution: More is more! For all that 12-17 demographic whose attention they can’t hold with a two hour show, add in another hour. If there’s anything people love, it’s three hour television shows.

Facietiousness aside, this could end up being one of the best or one of the worst decisions WWE has made in recent years. Of course there is the argument that moving to three hours was one of the major factors that led to the downfall of WCW, but WCW seriously lacked the ability to support a three hour show and showed no backstage organization in preparation for it. Though we often hear about WWE changing plans the day of the show, it’s rare that Raw looks chaotic and confused like Nitro used to. Ultimately, three hours of Nitro was a drop in the bucket of what was a flooding disaster.

What good could come out of this, you might ask? Well, for one thing, maybe WWE can finally manifest Divas matches that last more than a minute on Raw. Doubtful, as they seem to care as much about the Diva division as I care about Hornswoggle. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Divas matches get an entire two minutes in the future! Wouldn’t that be something. Eight moves instead of four… seriously, though, giving more time to the divas is one thing on a long list of things they should be able to do.

In addition to increasing time for the women, perhaps we could get more wrestling over promos. These seems like a longshot, as there is a fear they’ll want to get people watching so we’ll get promo heavy moments at the beginning and end of each hour, as we typically do. Remember when wrestling shows used to open and close with wrestling matches? Wild idea.

More wrestling, more divas, what more could you want? More talent, perhaps. I’m not talking bringing back guys like Kevin Nash (sorry Kev,) but new, young, rising talent. Something fresh for the WWE. I wouldn’t be opposed to them bringing in some established guys from TNA either, though I consider that doubtful (outside of Matt Morgan, at the moment.)

Granting themselves another hour could give WWE the time and space to make good choices and build a better show. Unfortunately, their track record has shown that three hour Raws are usually total disasters where the first hour is essentially useless. This doesn’t mean it will be like that every week. Hopefully, they’ve got something better in mind.

An interesting thing to consider is the overall effect on the ratings. It seems likely that the first hour of the show will be the lowest, as it typically is during three hour Raws. That being the case, it’s possible that the low rating for hour one could drag down the overall rating for the whole show, which won’t look good for the WWE either.

Ultimately, I find it hard to wrap my head around this one. With attention faltering, ratings wavering and interest depleting, why make this move? Usually you supply a demand, you stock up when you’re selling out. You don’t fill your stock room with more and more of a product that less and less people are buying. Even Nitro went to three hours when they were commanding a massive audience, not when the people started turning away.

This is the same audience that swelled post-Wrestlemania with the entrance of Brock Lesnar, but returned to normal within a few weeks. WWE has the ability to pull those people back on occasions like this, they just can’t seem to keep them. So.. three hours then?

I’d like to see this succeed and I’d like to see a lot of amazing things come out of this. New talent, more matches, a better quality show and an increased probability of success in WWE’s future. Unfortunately, I’m not a look at the bright side type of person, especially when it pertains to WWE who have time and again show the prominent ability to take what is prophesied as great and turn it into total garbage.

So, it remains to be seen. In the end, it comes down to you, the fans, the people who are invested in this business and want to see it improve. Whether or not three hours of Raw keeps you wanting more, or pushes you away. At this point, the ratings remaining the same as they have been would be a success for an additional hour every week. If ratings begin to decrease, however, will WWE stick with it or pull the plug? Figuring that out is figuring out the mind of Vince McMahon and that takes much longer than three hours.

Buried Alive

WWE is creeping steadily toward overwhelming mediocrity.  Some would argue that they actually arrived there months, or even years ago.  If you’re a frequent viewer it is hard to argue against the fact that the quality of their shows has been in a state of decline for some time now.  Ratings have been plummeting faster than Mick Foley off the top of the cell.  However, in this instance, if WWE is planning on landing on a table it probably isn’t gimmicked enough to break the fall.  Just ask Jerry Lawler about that.  A large chunk of WWE’s viewing audience has been gradually turning away from product over the past few years and, unfortunately, WWE’s approach to correcting this issue seems to be to continue doing the same old things with some hotshots here and there.

Some have made the argument that WWE’s aim toward a PG environment has led to nothing but trouble for the company.  In light of Linda McMahon’s aim for senate and several contracts with youth oriented merchandise, much to the chagrin of older viewers, it doesn’t seem likely that the WWE will change course on that anytime soon.  The idea with PG was presented as an idea to “hook them while they’re young” and follow them as they age.  To grab the kids and get them to stick with the product as they get older.  The problem is, however, that viewers in the upper teens are losing interest.

It seems irrational to believe that a product aimed at thirteen-year-olds could keep the interest of nineteen-year-olds.  Often times the concept of what is “cool” or interesting to a thirteen-year-old is based more around what the older kids are into.  By aiming low you’re cutting off the top, whereas, if you aimed to entertain the older kids you’d probably hold onto some of the younger kids.  This isn’t to say that WWE needs to make a return to sleazy, sex driven angles with blood spilling all over the place.  Lord knows that hasn’t work very well for TNA in recent years.  Perhaps, though, it isn’t the fault of the age range at all.  Maybe it is WWE’s dedication to maintaining the status quo.

John Cena has been a figure of controversy over the years.  He has become the target for most older viewers that wish to hurl their disapproval at the company.  At the end of the day it seems clear that one fact is becoming evident:  people are getting tired of John Cena being on top of the world.  Much like in the late 80s with Hulk Hogan, fans today have grown weary of what they’ve come to call “SuperCena.”  Anyone who has watched for a while is aware that when John Cena isn’t completely burying some rising talent (Wade Barrett a few weeks ago, for example) than he is making corny jokes about poop or simply pointing out the fact that he still wears jorts.

Let’s face it, Cena has definitely begun coming down from the pinnacle of his time in WWE.  A lot of people are calling for a Cena heel turn and there is a slim possibility that we’re in the early stages of it.  Many analysts and wrestling critics see what they believe to be hints towards it.  John Cena being spotted with Stephanie at SummerSlam, his distance from the current angle involving the conspiracy, the fact that it seems almost set in stone that Survivor Series will see Cena, Rock and a few others teaming up against a new heel faction which will more than likely include the Miz, R-Truth, Kevin Nash and possibly some others.  There has been speculation that we’re about to see a rebirth for the nWo and if WWE is really stuck in the past it would make sense for the biggest face in the company to turn on the WWE and join forces with them.  Of course, this could all just be baseless speculation that never leads anywhere.  It wouldn’t be the first time a John Cena heel turn was believed to be in the works.

The problem is:  what would this really fix?  If John Cena turns heel and the nWo makes a return that is actually good, would that fix the horrid booking, terrible burials and overwhelming failure to push new stars?  Sure we’ve gotten a few people up there, or at least sitting on the backburner, like Sheamus.  However, how many times are we going to see John Morrison get squashed like he did this past Monday, how long will we see the same old names sitting on top?  Randy Orton, John Cena, Triple H.  How often over the past few years have these three been involved in some way, shape or form with the main events of the PPVs?  A lot more than anyone else.

WWE makes the argument that young stars need to “get themselves” over before WWE sees them as marketable, but this could easily be a fallacy, a catch 22, so to speak.  Taking John Cena, for example, is he so over because he gets himself over or does he remain over because he has the entire WWE marketing crew keeping him afloat?  Even with all of his support, backlash is coming swiftly.  If you’ve ever watched anyone in the wrestling business discuss the fall of WCW, one of the major factors they’ve always spoken of is the company’s failure to make new stars.  WWE has time to turn this around but they really have sat on their laurels these past few years.  It appears they believed the John Cena wave would carry them longer than it appears that it will.

There are so many factors which feed into the ratings, the interest level and the success of WWE.  If nothing else, it appears obvious that some changes are plausible and others are necessary.  The shear fact of the matter is they cannot and will not fix their current situation by staying the course and continuing to deliver us the same, freeze dried, reheated, recycled storylines.  Also, just because they throw us a five star match once in a while doesn’t make their creative direction any different than it currently is.  Who thought this whole CM Punk thing would turn to garbage so quickly?  They say the definition of insanity is performing the same actions but expecting different outcomes.  Well, Mr. McMahon, you might have to actually make some changes if you want to see things change.  This isn’t a complicated concept.  Maybe, though, some people just have difficulty letting go.

The SuperColumn

Remember when you could walk into a McDonalds and order a large fry and they’d ask if you wanted it Supersized?  Take your favorite meal, make it even bigger and enjoy it even more.  Sure you may end up vomiting it up later but hey, if you love fries as much as I do then you sure do miss the Supersize option.  When it comes to television you have a show, it could be great, terrible or run of the mill.  However, if you have a Supershow then it has to be better right?  Making Monday Night Raw into a Supershow seemed like a great idea.  Take all of your favorites, from both brands, smash them together and we could get things we’d never seen before!  New rivalries, new confrontations, new matches.

Taking Raw and making it Super could really have been something you didn’t want to miss. Unfortunately, as per usual, WWE has managed to take something which seems like a tremendous idea and transform it into something mediocre.  There doesn’t seem to be any company in the world that succeeds as frequently as WWE does at taking something that could be awesome and making it typical.  I think they’ve managed to prove that over the past few years.  If you’d have told me five years ago that Bret Hart and the Rock would return I’d have been elated.  I’d be thinking WWE had turned the right corner, that these two storylines could really blow the roof off.  The last thing I’d have thought was that Bret Harts return would have went over like an anvil and that the Rock would come back to work a mediocre program with John Cena.

Who knew that CM Punk would walk out on Raw and say so many things that fans had been thinking for so long only for it to be forgotten the next week?  Someone still has to explain to me why a massive storyline was built around this guy leaving the company with the title only to see him leave for a week.  People had been clamoring for the return of Triple H and yet it doesn’t seem like his return has made a lick of difference in the horrendous nature of the program other than the fact that we get to see him come out and talk for a few segments on every show.  Kevin Nash, who once galvanized the wrestling world with the nWo comes out to the ring looking about as interested in being there as I do waiting in line at the DMV.  Textgate, which was this intriguing storyline with multiple suspects, turns out to be “Nash texted Nash” which makes sense to someone, somewhere, I’m sure.  But, keep in mind, there are people out there who think Jersey Shore is a good show so that doesn’t add a lot of credence to this blunder.

The Supershow has delivered to us several “exciting” things.  Live, on Monday Night, we’ve gotten to see Randy Orton in a squash match against Heath Slater, Teddy Long making eight man tag matches because apparently, aside from Triple H and the seemingly forgotten Anonymous General Manager, he also has the power to make matches.  Who could forget the amazingly intriguing, hand-shakingly excited clash between WWE Tag Team Champions, Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne (I will not call them “Air Boom.”  It sounds like an action performed in the bathroom of an airplane) take on the formidable team of… Jinder Mahal and the Great Khali.  Well this is living up to be everything we’d thought it could be, right?  Oh boy.

So aside from a few random Smackdown stars thrown into Raw what have we gotten?  The same show, the same poor writing, the same half-assed booking.  What exactly did they think this was going to do?  You can change your show into a Supershow, or change the name of your company completely (*cough*TNA*cough*) but if you’re not going to actually change what you’re doing it is going to be completely meaningless.  The idea of ending the brand split could have been something major but if they ever do decide to completely end it on all shows I think they’ve taken some dangerous steps towards damaging that concept by making Raw a “Supershow.”  I suppose I should start rebranding my old columns as “Supercolumns” and that will magically make them better than they were to start out with, right?

What could make a Supershow super?  How about new matches, exciting storylines, fresh rivalries?  Maybe we could see Randy Orton wrestle someone who he hasn’t wrestled before in a match that takes longer than two minutes and actually makes a difference as applies to the Raw superstars?  Maybe, just maybe, we could get a wrestling show that actually makes us want to keep watching?  The NFL season is opening and WWE didn’t even try to do a single thing to make any NFL fans feel like they might be missing something if they tuned out next week.  I don’t watch football but even I am not sure what I’m supposed to be tuning in to see.  Hell, they didn’t even announce the main event on Monday until five minutes before it was happening.  Some Supershow, huh?

You can slap the word “Super” in front of anything you want but that doesn’t actually mean anything.  To make Raw “super” you’re going to have to make it more than it already is, and that shouldn’t be complicated because it currently isn’t much of anything.  Right now I’d be happy just for Raw to be good.  Maybe that is the platform they should have aimed for first.  Monday Night Raw:  Good Show.  I’ll take a good show over a supershow any day, at least, if this is what a supershow has in store for us.  A Good show.. what a novel idea.

The Only One

The brand split has caused discussion for years amongst WWE fans.  Some would argue the merits of having two separate talent rosters and the benefit it serves in providing a platform where not only the same names have to remain at the top.  Others have said that the fans would lose out on some potential feuds which could not take place with the roster split in half and certain competitors never running into one another.  There has been a certain sentiment toward the idea of a single company having two world champions simultaneously.  With the brand split an argument could be made that you want a world champion on each show, despite the fact that the titles of WWE have less value now than they ever have before.

This past Monday, WWE COO Triple H came out and made what was to be a blockbuster announcement:  from now on RAW would have the rosters of both brands.  This did not turn out to be as big of a deal as you’d imagine it could have been.  Fans seemed to let out a collective sigh at this idea and even those who had argued against the brand split in the past felt underwhelmed by the announcement.  It didn’t feel like a big deal, it didn’t feel like something that could shake up WWE and bring more fascinating storylines to the fans.  It seemed like a desperation move to try and save the dwindling ratings on RAW.  The problem, however, is that the ratings aren’t falling because of a brand split and they’re not falling because Triple H wasn’t on the show.  They are falling because WWE is perpetuating a cycle where mediocre, uninspired, dime a dozen storylines that give us absolutely nothing new and anytime they show us even the slightest glimmer of something better on the horizon they take it away almost as quickly as they teased us with it.

The CM Punk storyline heading into money in the bank is a perfect example.  Punk came out and delivered a worked shoot promo which set the world on fire.  It didn’t matter that this was all a work, it mattered that finally someone was publicly saying what so many fans had been screaming about for years.  Punk truly did become the “Voice of the Voiceless” in that segment.  We had this tremendous build up telling us that if Punk won the title at Money in the Bank he’d be leaving the company with it.  No one expected him to win and when he did, this news once again set the wrestling world on fire.  WWE was giving us something we hadn’t seen before and they were playing it out with intelligence and intrigue.  Then, a week later, Punk came walking out on RAW with a newly signed contract and the WWE title while Cena also had a WWE title.  Then we got SummerSlam and Kevin Nash and we’re in a place that seems boring, uninspired and uninteresting.

The Kevin Nash angle was interesting at first.  Who sent the text and for what reason?  We’ve got a decent list of suspects but does anyone really care anymore?  Triple H is going to face Punk in a match at Night of Champions.  Was there any fanfare, any kind of a big deal moment when this was announced (in the last minute of the show, behind the scenes.)  Triple H is making his return to the ring for the first time since Wrestlemania and it feels like it doesn’t matter, like it’s just another match and there is no big deal.  Shouldn’t WWE have presented this to us like it matters?  This entire thing has been handled poorly.  A few flashes of genius ultimately buried beneath an avalanche of stupid mistakes, poor choices and overall poor booking.  The ratings are in a freefall and Football hasn’t even kicked in yet.  WWE is in for a shock this Fall.  Whereas they used to be able to maintain a 3.5 I’d be shocked to see them grabbing anything higher than a 2.5 this year.

WWE doesn’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that doing this week to week, on the fly booking is hurting them more than anything else.  Nothing feels like it is well thought out and everything feels like it could change at any moment.  Remember the Anonymous General Manager?  If you do then obviously you don’t work for WWE since they’re essentially pretending he doesn’t exist right now.  Remember seeing Stephanie McMahon at SummerSlam and RAW the next night but not again?  What was the point of that?  Was she simply a red herring?  I don’t know and right now it doesn’t seem like WWE creative knows either.  When was the last time WWE created a storyline, drew it out and executed it in a way that left you feeling satisfied?  I can’t remember one.  There is a complete lack of consistency and WWE is becoming like the absentee father who always promises things and never delivers.  Eventually you stop believing and you find somewhere else to focus your energies.

I love wrestling and I have loved it since I was a child.  I was drawn in and kept interested in the early 90s.  I lived through the terrible few years after Hogan left and WWE had to build new stars to interest us.  I saw the rise of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels and had my dedication rewarded with the sparking of the attitude era.  I have been watching wrestling for longer than most John Cena fans have been alive and yet right now, despite my love for this, I am finding it increasingly difficult to watch anymore.  WWE is like a spinning compass and they can’t find their footing.  They don’t seem to have any real, long term concept of where they want to go and so they fall back on who they always do:  John Cena.  Cena has worn out his welcome for me, and whether I like him or I don’t doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I’m tired of him.  I’m tired of knowing no matter who the WWE champion is they’re going to feud with Cena.  I think Cena is an amazing example of the current state of WWE.  Same thing, different day, same outcome.  I want something new, I want to feel like this all matters and I want to feel like I used to when I loved tuning into WWE television every week.  And I know I’m not the only one.
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