3 Insufferable Hours?
This isn’t a negative review of the 3 hour Raw 1000. Honestly, they did much better than I expected. But that’s an easy thing to accomplish with a greatest hits collection. It’s much different to put out a 3 hour show weekly with the current roster instead of the extended one available on Monday.
Thankfully, I did see a few things on Monday that gave me hope concerning format changes to a regular 3 hour show. I’ll hold on to my dubious nature, and expect the worst, but at the very least I can see potential with how Raw 1000 delivered, and with Raw 1001 coming up from behind.
Hype = Ratings
The real story may just be the ratings. With the highest rated Raw program in 3 years, Vince and HHH must see the potential to keep the momentum going. If WWE is capable of drawing such a high rating in the middle of the summer with no actual storylines to keep up interest, then there’s no doubt they can sustain a larger viewing audience. What changed between Raw 999 and 1000? I won’t deny that we as wrestling fans who tuned in weekly have been bombarded with advertisements of the super Raw, but there wasn’t a million dollar ad campaign to reach out to old fans. Barring commercials on USA, WWE brought in the ratings by advertising on their own shows. They hyped up the appearances of Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, the wedding, and the main event.
Other than HBK, what can’t the WWE hype up for Raw 1001? WWE have lost the art of planning ahead, nevermind telling the audience what’s coming up next fucking week! We are already seeing commercials concerning the fallout of Punk’s actions at the end of Raw, and Syfy has a few days with the results of the Smackdown tapings to advertise to their viewers what is coming up on Friday night. But why can’t a match or segment be announced during Raw 1001 for the next week? It doesn’t need to be a star studded event, but announce Christian getting a rematch for the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz, or Kane vs Jinder Mahal, Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins in a handicap match. When you do have a WWE Title match to plan, or a special appearance by a legend, or a return to action for HHH or Undertaker, hype the shit out of it.
It’s frustrating to see how “booked on the fly” WWE can be, while the booking in advance is what’s succeeding. The wrestling business is unpredictable, but fans know this. And one thing WWE has to be given credit for is how well they can fix a mess up. If they hype Punk vs HHH in 3 weeks time, and HHH falls with an injury, WWE delivers something to make up for it. More often then not, it matches the original idea. So there’s no reason to hesitate on hyping up the next week’s Raw. I think the incessant recaps and replays on Smackdown/NXT/Superstars would be much more tolerable if the segment ended with Booker T telling me that on the next Monday Night Raw, I’ll see Santino Marella defend the US Title against Cody Rhodes.
WWE seems to live in the past, in the sense that they hype the next Raw by showing what happened on the previous one. Wrestling fans have an addictive nature. We don’t need to be prodded into watching the next week as much, nor do we need a recap of what happened already. We saw what happened. I’ll watch Smackdown on Friday to see the blue brand, not to see what I saw just 4 nights prior. I’ll fast forward through the Raw rebound every fucking week(and have). But that would change if they interspersed reminding me that I’ll be seeing AJ’s first ruling as Raw GM, and that CM Punk will be forced to defend the WWE title again in a No DQ match against John Cena.
Format: Building to Main Event
Forget the segments that were built in the first place for Raw 1000. While many may not give a shit about the return of DX to start off the first of 3 hours of Raw, or cared to see AJ marry Daniel Bryan without a match to come of it, or to see HHH again to await Brock to accept the SummerSlam challenge… WWE did a fantastic job priming the audience to anticipate these segments.
If this is how Raw is rumored to go forward, with top of the hour main events (that don’t need to be matches, no matter what we’d prefer) then they delivered on that format perfectly. Quality of the segments aside, we had a fair amount of dedication to reminding the audience that these segments were coming up. Showing AJ and Daniel backstage preparing for the ceremony, mentioning Brock/Heyman were backstage and on Tout, and of course the Rock/Punk/Bryan segment which led into the main event match – it all blended in terrifically. If this is the future of Raw, it might not be so bad at 3 hours.
Now, this may seem more difficult with the current roster instead of having Rock/Brock/HBK at WWE’s disposal. But it really isn’t. Those 3 hours were packed, but no single character or performer was over pushed. There was no overkill on Cena talking, for example. Will WWE keep with that blueprint? Probably not. But it’s not so difficult to include the tag champions, giving the Smackdown main event scene an extra segment other than the hot 6 man tag, an interview segment like the Peep Show (though I’d suggest a non-wrestler host it) that can help advance storylines…etc. Will WWE dedicate this new time for stars who need it? Raw 1000 gave the indication that they just might. Damian Sandow opened the show, 6 curtain jerkers attacked Kane with Mahal on the microphone, and Sin Cara was booked in the 6 man tag match. That’s pretty good, considering the amount of talent excluded from the show.
So I expect a true main event to be booked early in the show, with prime segments/matches booked for the top of the hours. I also expect more of the lower/midcard guys in hour one to start, as fans get accustomed to tuning in the hour earlier. That way the main stars are still in the existing 2 hour slot. Maybe have a Tag Title or midcard Title match defended into the 9:00 EST hour. If this is the case, I think many LOPers will prefer the first hour of Raw over the remaining 2. Myself included.
Stronger Heel Development (though this goes for all of WWE)
TNA owns WWE in terms of developing heel main eventers. TNA is doing a lot of great things these days, but one of the few things that goes unnoticed is how amazing they are at elevating talent, and then sustaining it. WWE seriously needs to take note.
Consider this: over the last year, TNA elevated Bobby Roode, James Storm, and Austin Aries into a main event position. Has anyone dropped from TNA title contention to make room for them? I don’t think so. With Aries as champ, the challengers that faced Roode are still in a credible position to challenge for the title. Aries vs RVD/Sting/Storm/Angle/Joe/Hardy/Anderson/Styles are all viable options to headline a PPV card. This is truly impressive when you compare to WWE. TNA has done a magnificent job in elevating heel talent, while keeping their face talent in the mix without losing momentum.
While Bobby Roode may be the best example, Jeff Hardy’s heel run is another sign. No matter what complaints you had about the Jeff Hardy’s run as the “Antichrist of Professional Wrestling,” there’s no doubt that it was a monster shot of energy into a rather bland main event scene. And it opened the door for several encounters that would have been entertaining had Hardy not fucked up. But this isn’t about the talent, but the creative behind the talent.
This is where the ties to NWA seem to go strong. When comparing WWE/WWF to WCW/NWA, it’s obvious to see the heel/face pattern of champions. Vince McMahon always seems to depend on the strong main event face carrying the company as champion (Hogan, Hart, Diesel, HBK, Austin, Rock, Cena) whereas in Atlanta we saw heels dominate the landscape (Flair, Flair, Flair, Hogan). TNA has followed suit, with the longest reigns being in the hands of a heel, such as Roode recently. The memorable reigns of Hardy, Angle and Styles were all as heel as well.
Now, because most heels are booked cheaply, it means the face challengers who fail to dethrone the evil champion don’t lose as much steam when they are unsuccessful at taking the gold. That’s why so many challengers can face Aries if he holds on to the TNA Championship past the current angle with Bobby Roode.
On the other hand, how many people have been fed to Cena only to be dropped from the main event completely? Miz just won the Intercontinental Championship. While that’s not a knock on the man, or how that belt is booked (I’m a fan of having former World/WWE champs giving credibility to midcard titles), it is a sign that at this point WWE don’t know how to handle the man. He won’t shut up about headlining Wrestlemania, and winning – but he’s right. As soon as he lost the WWE Title to Cena, he was directionless. The list of other former challengers to the SuperStars on top that dropped a level is insane. Especially since we’re seeing WWE attempt to revive their careers. Dolph Ziggler has proven time and time again that he’s a star for the future, but he’s been driven as a failed challenger for the World/WWE Title at the Royal Rumble 2 years in a row. There’s no denying that he’s always on the cusp of breaking out, but his history of losing is holding him back. He’s been above the midcard title, below the main event, and in limbo most of the time since dropping the US gold in December 2010. He’s never been wasted, but it’s not like he’s been in a position to improve on the ladder.
Another long standing issue is the amount of PPV rematches we see. Daniel Bryan lost the World Title at Wrestlemania, lost his rematch at Extreme Rules, then failed to win the WWE title from CM Punk at Over the Limit, No Way Out, and Money in the Bank. Where does he go from here? He’s lost 5 straight PPV main event title matches in a row. What credibility does he have?
On Monday, we saw Rock come out and say he’ll challenge the WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble (booking in advance? Awesome!). CM Punk then declared he’d be the WWE Champion by then. Immediately, the WWE Universe took note that this is entirely possible. Then Daniel Bryan said he’d be champion by then, to which the WWE Universe laughed, and said “ahh, how cute!”
Why? Because no matter how much Daniel Bryan has been used, and how well he’s been presented, he’s still a very recent 5 time PPV title loser. The successful World Title reign from December to April is long forgotten and erased. Granted, it doesn’t take much to bring him back into a credible position, but at this time he’s not in any position to take on the Rock at the Rumble.
WWE needs to cut down on back-to-back title shots. Not only does it exhaust the audience with the same matches for 2-3 months straight, but it exhausts the talent. Daniel Bryan is in an unenviable position of limbo, similar to what Dolph Ziggler and the Miz were put into after their failed attempts to compete with the Edges, Ortons, and Cenas of the WWE. The rotation of failed heel challengers is obvious. After Ziggler and Del Rio failed to win/hold onto the WWE Title, they moved their attentions to the World title this year. It’s a cycle, but it’s one without a lot of upward movement as WWE continues to keep their pattern of Hogans on top with Cena and Sheamus. CM Punk broke that mold, but seems to be turning heel now, so it’s a moot point.
There’s no denying that WWE has an upper echelon of main eventers. At this point it includes only Cena, Orton and Punk. In TNA, there is no upper tier. It’s a rather level playing field. It makes the title scene much more attractive. With the constant rotation of heel challengers to the Super WWE faces, there will be very little progression to find new talent. Even Punk and Sheamus had to turn face as they were below that upper level as a heel. Will that be the cure for Miz, Del Rio, Ziggler, and Bryan? If it is, it’s not that attractive a prospect, as it leaves an even bigger gap on the heel side of things.
Barring HHH as World champ in 2002-2004, WWE is very hesitant to allow a heel to take control. It’s a shame, because as weak as that run was as he was too dominant, it’s due to the weak roster he had to work with. Today’s WWE is not the same as back in the early days of the split. There’s a much better and larger talent pool in 2012 then a decade ago. Also, with 2 titles, there’s lots of room for them to experiment with this sort of booking. Instead, they run it short term from November-ish to around Wrestlemania season with the title on a heel (like D-Bryan for Mania 28, Miz for Mania 27, Batista at 26, Edge and Orton for 24, Angle for 22, HHH for 21, Angle at 19, Jericho at 18, Rock for Mania 15..etc.) and put the title on the Super Face into the summer.
And when is WWE’s down time exactly? Oh right… Coincidence?
I wish ROH, CHIKARA, or PWG released DVDs of the best matches of the year. I think it would help fans get into the promotions if there was access to the “greatest hits.”
And on that note, peace out.
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