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.

Who is Sting?

For a long time now, Sting has been the pillar supporting the major companies which have stood against the corporate juggernaut that is WWE.  His days in the NWA are legendary, his feuds with Flair and the horseman bring about fond memories of a time when wrestling was wrestling.  During his tenure in WCW he was one face which despite it’s many sizes, shapes and colors always seemed to elicit interest from the fanbase.  Despite whatever negative thoughts people may have in regard to TNA (Impact Wrestling), it’s creative direction and the level of it’s performers, Sting always stands outs.  In recent years he began to stand out in a more negative light, grouped in with this so-called “elite” of old wrestler, with Sting standing as a centerpiece relic of a time long gone, a man who was the epitome of lacking the ability to let go and accept that their prime had passed.  However, as has been said hundreds of times, recreating yourself is a necessity in the world of wrestling and if there is one person, aside from the Undertaker, who could pull this off it would be Sting.
During the peak days of WCW when the nWo was running rampant over all of the members of the roster, Sting disappeared and it was his reappearance which transformed him from the blond haired, brightly painted face that would stand against the villains into what some recognized as a version of Brandon Lee in “The Crow.”  Despite it’s clear relation to the film, Sting managed to take this character to a new level and made himself not only the main adversary of the nWo but also the one the fans were dying to see step into the ring and end their reign.  Who can forget seeing him standing in the rafters, the storyline involving the fake Sting or the first time he came dropping down from the ceiling.  Let’s face it, Sting has reinvented himself and by doing so he’d reinvigorated the fan’s interest in him as well as directing his character in a new, exciting direction.
One can’t take the poor booking of WCW into consideration too much in regard to this.  Sting’s character was absolutely butchered and pushed into negative directions as were so many during that time.  This does not, however, cancel out the fact that his character was fresh, it was exciting and it was completely different from who he had been in the past.  Perhaps it wasn’t as epic of the Undertaker going from the deadman to the biker, but it was impressive nonetheless and it is impossible to argue with the positive effects reaped by his change.  No one at the time, or at least to the best of my recollection, was complaining or joking too much about his character’s obvious similarity to the graphic novel and film character of “Eric Draven” featured in “The Crow.”  At the end of the day people liked Sting, they liked where he went and they wanted to see where he would end up.  There was for a time a belief that one day we’d see Sting walk down the ramp in WWE and that the ultimate battle, the big “what if” was Sting vs The Undertaker.  Sting however chose to stay out of WWE when WCW collapsed.  However, he would later surface in TNA.
Sting’s arrival in TNA and the subsequent years became mostly a perpetuation of the same character we’d always seen.  Unfortunately, as is the case with so many wrestlers, the same thing gets worn out, tired and frankly the fans grow tired of seeing it.  Fans want new, exciting, interesting.  They want someone they can be excited to turn the television on and see.  To be kind, Sting began to become a little less interesting, and for those who are blunt, he got boring.  There were moments of interest, his beginnings in the Main Event Mafia, his return after returning to be a face.  Despite these changes he seemed to remain a very similar character with occasional flashes of what could be or fond little nostalgic moments that remind of why we liked him in the first place.  However, all of this has begun to change.
Anyone who has been watching TNA lately has been witness to the new character which Sting has developed which is apparently based upon Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker.  Whether or not he based it upon a fictional character doesn’t matter as is evidenced by his success in WCW.  It is where he takes it, how he uses it, what he brings us that matters.  Do his promos and matches entertain you?  Do you want to see where his storyline goes?  Somewhere along the way older wrestling fans have begun to believe that they know what will and will not work.  Perhaps because they’ve watched for years or because they think themselves smarter than the average fan, either way it doesn’t much matter.  “Smark” or not, what works works and Sting is proving once again why he is capable of taking something out of pop culture and is more than capable of making it into something fans want to see.  Sting has, one more time, reinvented himself and for the moment it seems to be drawing in attention.
Whether you are a fan of Sting or not, and whether you find his portrayal of the Joker to be interesting or derivative you cannot argue against the fact that he has managed to transform himself one more time and in doing so has caused many fans to forget why they’d grown tired of him.  They have reinvested, their interest is piqued one more time and regardless of the success of TNA, the future creative direction he follows or who he defeats or loses to, he has shown us one more time why he understands this business and knows how to work it.  Love him or hate him in this incarnation you have to respect him and regardless of your feelings about it you have to be curious, even if only slightly, on where it goes from here.

With or Without WCW

“The Very Best of WCW Nitro” came out on DVD this week.  The DVD set, which is hosted by Diamond Dallas Page and chronicles what are considered to be the highlights of Nitro harkens back to a time that many refer to as “the golden age of wrestling.”  1995 to 2000 was arguably one of the greatest times in the last fifty years to be a wrestling fan.  Ted Turner owned, Eric Bischoff operated WCW burst onto the scene with a running start that left Vince McMahon and the then WWF in the dust for several years.
The overwhelming success of WCW and it’s Nitro programming not only created memorable and exciting moments for WCW and it’s fans but also forced the hand of Vince McMahon to step into what would become the “attitude era” that would transform the WWF from a cartoon character, child targeting product into an edgy, adult, intense show full of action and shock.  The weight of the WCW product combined with mismanaged funds, poor talent relations and behind the scenes chaos ultimately contributed heavily to the collapse of the company which was then bought out by Vince McMahon.  The great question which now looms is:  would the current state of wrestling be better off if WCW had not gone under, or if someone else had purchased it instead of McMahon?
The argument has been made since that fateful Monday Night when McMahon announced his purchase of WCW.  The wrestling world was in shock.  A massive amount of WCW fans walked away from the product that day, never wanting to turn their attention to WWE.  This was a war, and it was a war the fans took seriously.  Somewhat like the war between TNA and WWE fans though on a much larger scale.  There was fear that the destruction of the main competition would breed a state of lethargy in the creative process and that the hole left from WCW would never be filled.  Some would say that is in fact what has happened and the ratings wrestling is pulling in today are nothing compared to the golden times and perhaps we will never see it reach those heights again.
There are always other companies but the two notable organizations would be WWE followed distantly by TNA and then pulling up the rear way in the back would be ROH.  The “competition” so to speak is not nearly as rabid as it was in those days and though fans are as angry and hateful toward one another as they’ve ever been there is no sense that the companies themselves are hungering to take the other out.  WWE by all appearances doesn’t care at all about any other company other than to take talent from them and TNA, while run by people who seem to want to take out WWE have no ability to construct a product that can truly compete in today’s day and age.  Many often recollect upon the end times of WCW and draw similarities in the leadership and creative direction then to what they currently see going on behind the scenes of TNA.  Of course this is easy to do when you have the familiar faces of Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan.
Dixie Carter, who for a long period has been the main power behind the TNA product (I’m aware of the “Impact Wrestling” name but choose to refer to TNA as it is still the more familiar title) and though she seems to be an intelligent woman with good intentions her mind is not sharp to the politics and backstage antics involved in the wrestling industry and therefore her attempts to brand this product as true competition continue to fall short.  The creative direction of TNA is confused at best, and though there is a roster flush with talent there seems to be a disconnect involved.  Whether you are a WWE fan or a TNA fan you should ultimately be a wrestling fan and competition in wrestling can breed new creative directions.  Hoping for the failure of one company or the other is really only going to keep us exactly where we are.  There should be some semblance of hope for TNA to succeed and at a minimum provide you with an excellent wrestling experience on Thursday nights.
No matter who you are a fan of you must be conscious of the fact that wrestling today is lacing something.  That spark, that flame that sets everything on fire and makes you not watch because you’ve always watched, but watch because you need to see what they are going to do next.  WWE has turned PG and entered a rather stagnant period of mediocre, repetitious storylines.  TNA is fighting to establish itself as a viable, possibly threatening number two company.  Suffice it to say it seems rather apparent to any current wrestling fan that the fall of WCW adversely affected wrestling in more ways than one and the loss of true competition has lead to a period of malaise.  Perhaps one day in the future a new power will rise up and threaten WWE and bring us back into that golden period, or maybe wrestling will remain as it is we will have highs and lows but we will never get back to where we once were.
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