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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: "Fixing" The WWE Product Is Easy (Monday's Raw Just Proved It)
By Maverick
Dec 16, 2015 - 7:23:01 AM

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”Fixing” The WWE Product Is Easy (Monday’s Raw Just Proved It)

Greetings dear reader, and welcome back to Requesting Flyby. Now, for those of you expecting the next edition of my epic Undertaker retrospective, that will be with you soon enough, but I felt compelled by recent events to take a brief break from writing about the past to write about the present.

We are living in a time of unprecedented fan awareness. Never have we been so spoilt by access to backstage news, gossip, shoot interviews on podcasts, and so on. Even your average fan has what might have been termed “smarky” opinions in the past, and I teach children of 11, 12, 13 who criticise what they see on the Network. They're really just junior versions of ourselves, in many ways.

All of this means that the product has never been under such intense scrutiny, which perhaps accounts for some of the social media madness that seems to afflicted so many prominent wrestling personalities in recent weeks. Between Mick Foley’s biannual hissy fit that his favourite wrestlers aren't being pushed, the controversy over his son being hired as a junior intern in Creative, and his daughter's boyfriend writing an absurd open letter “quitting” his life as super fan, we had an entire family dynasty making an awful lot of noise about how “bad” the product is. More moderately, Stone Cold Steve Austin has been critical of the way old school booking strategy and ring psychology has been eroded since day, and is openly incredulous that wrestlers have promos written for them, whilst Sean Waltman spent much of Tuesday arguing with a fan over how good a match Ambrose vs Ziggler was.

As ever with the opinions of the masses, and with the opinions of former stars or their associates, there is some grain of truth to some of the accusations about the product, but also a lot of hyperbole and hot air. On LOP Radio’s The Right Side Of The Pond two weeks ago, I said to my fellow host Mazza that a lot of people confuse “problems with the product” with “my guy is not being pushed to the title”. Cesaro becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion would not make three hour Raws any easier to digest, and would not fix the paint by numbers pay-per-view builds which infuriate during down months.

To be absolutely honest about it, WWE have the most talented roster they have possessed since 2002. They can put almost any two workers from the midcard to the main event together and almost guarantee themselves a good to great match. The pay-per-view output over the past three years has been of unprecedented consistency and quality. The WWE Network provides us with all manner of unique content and an unbelievable library of wrestling history to indulge in. It's a great time to be a fan. Except for one thing...television.

I don't intend here to get into arguments about ratings and the changing nature of the product as WWE phases out traditional cable based pay-per-views. I'll leave that to others. What I am here to talk about, really, is the way that the end of Sunday’s TLC main event led to a superb through the night story on Monday Night Raw that thrilled the wrestling world, and may, just may, have finally created something approaching universal fan sympathy for Roman Reigns. What Monday shows us is that booking a three hour television show is actually easy if you have one thing: a story. As I'm sure you all remember, one of my most successful projects here at Lords Of Pain was a complete show by show retrospective of the Attitude Era. What was most evident in reliving that period, week by week, show by show, PPV by PPV, was the stories. The way that narratives built over time and permeated every single moment of the product. Think of those great moments of the Monday Night War and it is those prominent, long running tales you think of. The night Mick Foley won the world title for the first time, still the most incredible moment I ever experienced as a wrestling fan, his quest to win that belt, after being screwed for months, after battling around the world for a decade plus, took place after a through the night story where he captured Shane McMahon in order to force Vince to give him one more shot at The Rock, had DX volunteer to be his back up against The Corporation at ringside, with Stone Cold’s intervention finally tipping the odds in Mankind’s favour. The roar when the referee counted to three is something I will never forget, and nor will I ever forget the genuine emotion in Michael Cole’s voice as he shouted “Mankind did it! Mick Foley did it!”

If you were wondering why Monday was so compelling, it is because it had the same kind of structure. Reigns interrupted Stephanie’s righteous monologue and had his face slapped to a pulp. It felt real, it felt vital, just as Roman snapping on Sunday night had done. In the middle of the night, the return of Vince lent gravitas to the situation; if the rarely sighted Chairman was here, business really was picking up, and the former Shield man’s position was perilous, but McMahon was manipulated into giving Roman a title match on the condition that a loss would equal a firing. Then, in the main event, a heated, thrilling encounter saw Reigns triumph against the odds to almost universal acclaim. And really, all this hand wringing about the product is just wasted energy, because telling engaging stories like that is ALL they need to do to repair television. Because let's face it, the reason most of us were hooked into wrestling in the first place was because of the stories.

Now that WWE seem to have a direction for Wrestlemania- Triple H vs Roman Reigns looks very likely right now- it is imperative that they keep this momentum going by doing this every Raw. It doesn't always have to be the main event that is the through the night tale; it could be Ambrose vs Owens or the tag division that's spotlighted next week- but the humdrum, phoned in episodes with an abundance of meaningless matches and lame, samey promo segments need to end, for good. While it may be true that the urgency of competition for Monday nights isn't there anymore, it is a proven fact that Vincent K. McMahon cares about those ratings, and Vince, the answer is simple: do what you did on Monday night EVERY WEEK. There are obviously other things that create memorable wrestling TV: good in ring action, convincing promos, effective progression of feuds, variety...but if the storytelling is good, all of those things take care of themselves. So let's cross out fingers for Monday night for further improvements to the writing of the flagship show, because I'm sure we can agree that Reigns’ memorable night was the kind of wrestling we want to see.

This is Maverick, requesting flyby!